Pakistan has been facing acute power shortages during recent years. There is a huge negative gap between the supply and demand which is filled by cutting supplies to the consumers. The big cities face a load shedding of three to six hours whereas rural areas face supply cuts from ten to twelve hours. The general public is further infuriated due to continuous hikes in power tariffs.
The current energy mix of Pakistan is heavily dominated by oil and gas fired power plants. The price of oil in the international market has increased many folds during the recent years, which has a direct bearing on the net cost of electricity. The gas reserves in the country are diminishing with time and no new reserves have been discovered. Coal reserves in the country are of low quality and difficult to mine. Further, the coal industry in the country is still at a nascent stage. Thermal power plants also have enormous environmental pollution problems.
A little less than one third of Pakistan’s total electricity is generated by hydro plants. About two thirds of the total hydro-electricity is generated from the plants located on a single river, the Indus. The result is that when there is shortage of water in this river, particularly in the winter season, the production from hydro plants drops to less than half the installed capacity.
Wind energy has certain limitations. The amount of power produced from wind energy is not controlled by demand, but by the prevalent wind speed. Therefore, it is not considered dependable for the base-load of any grid.
Nuclear energy has high up-front costs. However, the operating cost of nuclear power plants is far less than thermal plants. The total levelized cost of electricity is therefore smaller than any other source of energy. If the share of nuclear energy is increased in Pakistan’s future energy mix, we would be able to supply dependable energy to consumers at an affordable price. Hence, it is inevitable for Pakistan to enhance the share of nuclear energy in the national grid to have a balanced energy mix.