In a surprise move, Pakistan has abandoned plans to build 27GW of coal power plants between 2030 and 2047, and will invest in renewable energy instead.
The announcement was made by Imran Khan, Pakistan’s prime minister, during a virtual gathering of global leaders.
He told the Climate Ambition Summit 2020 on Saturday: "We have already scrapped two coal power projects that were supposed to produce 2.6GW of energy. We have replaced them with hydroelectricity."
He added: "We have also decided that by 2030, 60% of all energy produced in Pakistan will be from clean energy, renewables, and also 30% of all our vehicles will be powered by electricity."
Some $6bn of plants under construction will be completed, but no new projects will be undertaken.
Pakistan had based its energy strategy on the discovery, in the early nineties, of a huge coal deposit beneath the Thar desert in Sindh Province. The country has just begun to exploit this with a Chinese-financed coal mine and 330MW power plant, completed last year.
A series of coal power plants were planned, reducing Pakistan’s dependence on imported fuel and ending its chronic black-outs – there is a 2GW shortfall in generation during peak seasons, and demand is growing by 7% a year.
Khan said that Pakistan’s coal may be converted to liquid or gas fuels.
Over the last five years, Pakistan has built 18 wind power projects generating 937MW, six solar power projects producing 418MW. However, wind, solar, hydro and nuclear make up only 36% of the energy mix, and the remainder is produced by fossil fuels – mainly natural gas.
Khan’s announcement took commentators by surprise, and some expressed scepticism about the move.
Najam ul Hassan Farooqi, a Pakistan-based energy consultant, told new site TRT World: "Khan’s statement was really confusing for many of us. Pakistan’s carbon footprint is very small and we need to use our indigenous coal to bring down the cost of electricity. I personally think he wasn’t properly briefed about the situation on the ground."
In the week before Khan’s announcement, Pakistan’s energy minister met the Chinese ambassador and discussed investment in renewable energy.
The Chinese government has suggested it would like to make its external investments greener, and its environment ministry has recently floated blacklisting coal power investments abroad.
Image: Pakistan discovered vast coal reserves beneath the Thar desert (Dreamstime)