Against the Tide: How Solar Power Can Lead Pakistan’s Uphill Battle Against Climate
Pakistan has only just received a reprieve from a blistering heat wave that has left people in the
lurch, as it were. What makes this heat wave so remarkable is its duration. Andrew King, a
senior lecturer in climate science at the University of Melbourne in Australia explains that we
can expect heat waves in the Indo-Pak region to begin around May, right before the summer
monsoon season. This heat wave, however, began in March and has persisted for three months.
Temperatures in Pakistan rose to a sweltering 40oC in the federal capital and 51oC in the south-
eastern city of Jacobabad. The intense temperature has caused forest fires and disrupted harvests.
On average, this heat wave is hotter than what is usual for this region. In general, heat waves are
becoming more and more common across Pakistan and neighbouring India.
A Tale of Recurring Heat Waves
Older data from the University of Melbourne suggests that heat waves in India and Pakistan were
not as severe as in other regions of the globe. But this trend is changing, and it may be a
harbinger for what is to come. Down the line, Pakistan could be faced with much more serious
The worst part about the most recent heat wave was its sheer unpredictability and suddenness. It
came unexpectedly and lasted unusually long. This has caused acute water shortages in
Pakistan’s bread basket province of Punjab, and at least three people have lost their lives in the
country’s south-eastern province of Sindh.
No Spring Season in 2022
This abominable heat wave has completely gobbled up Pakistan’s spring season, which is usually
characterised by mild temperatures, green grass and blooming flowers. This year, unfortunately,
people were too busy dealing with crippling power outages and the sweltering heat to notice, not
that there was much in the way of blooming flowers because of the intense forest fires.
Is Climate Change to Blame?
There is no second opinion that climate change is to blame for this freak weather. This should
serve as a wake-up call to all involved that this is not a situation.
In the long run, measures will have to be taken to mitigate the effects of climate change, but that
is not enough. We are well past being able to plan for the future. The point of no return is either
upon us or well behind us, depending on who you ask. What this means for Pakistan is that the
government will have to work extra hard at solving the burgeoning climate crisis, before it
spirals out of control. This issue can no longer be put off for later. But, as with all things that
need to be addressed in a timely and streamlined manner, the Government of Pakistan does not
seem to be in a hurry to address the issue. This is understandable given the deepening economic
crisis and Political instability Pakistan finds itself in, but it must be said that Pakistan cannot go
on ignoring this issue. In the very near future, Pakistan’s climate may well become an issue as
large as the current political and economic crises. Should this happen, significant portions of
Pakistan’s already meagre capital will have to be diverted towards addressing this issue.
As of June 2022, before the onset of the pre-monsoon rains, many parts of Punjab and Sindh
were suffering from drought conditions. This water scarcity has often sent alarm bells ringing in
capitals from Washington to Beijing, given that nuclear-armed Pakistan and India can ill afford
to be embroiled in a water war. But such doom and gloom scenarios notwithstanding, Pakistan
was classified by the non-profit group Germanwatch as the 8th most susceptible country to
climate change. Water insecurity is a natural by-product of global warming and climate change.
It must be combated with every tool in the state’s arsenal, lest a nation of 220 million people
finds its backs to the wall. Such a scenario is bleak, as well as it should be. However, the
government of Pakistan is not alone in this fight against climate change.
Bringing the Considerable Power of the Private Sector to Bear
The private sector is not without considerable resources in itself; however, it does require
support from the government. At the very least, the government should not be imposing
additional taxes on solar panel imports. It is a welcome step indeed that the new Sharif
Administration has decided to remove any taxes on solar panels, inverters and storage systems.
This will undoubtedly boost the nascent solar industry in Pakistan and help the renewable sector
Solar Power to the Rescue
Excessive heat means excessive sunlight. Excessive sunlight need not be a source of only heat. It
can be harvested to produce more solar energy since the average hours of sunlight exposure have
gone up in recent months. The absence of cloud cover means more sunlight exposure. This in
turn can mean more solar power.
Uses for Solar Power in Pakistan
Solar power can take the burden off of Pakistan’s national grid and help divert power to areas
where it is needed more. Here are some ways in which solar energy can help reduce the burden
on the national grid.
Solar Water Heating
15-20% of Pakistan’s domestic energy consumption is used by water heating. Using solar-
powered water heaters can significantly reduce the strain on the national energy grid. Water
heating is also vital for Pakistan’s industrial sector, particularly the textile industry. 65% of the
textile energy, which is the largest industry in Pakistan, is used in heating water.
Using solar panels on an industrial scale can significantly reduce the amount of energy needed
by the textile industry. This is vital, given the current energy shortages crippling the Pakistani
textile sector. As it stands, the textile industry is on the verge of being cut off from its energy
supply because of increases in petrol prices. This is going to devastate the Pakistani textile
sector, which is the largest source of national exports. Furthermore, many investors, who were
wooed back to Pakistan from Bangladesh, are once again seeking to take their businesses abroad,
given the unstable condition of the Pakistani economy. So, while industrial solar panels are going
to cost, they are getting significantly cheaper over time. Their payback period also seldom
exceeds three years at most. Solar water heating can reduce the nation’s dependence on natural
gas rather quickly, and it can contribute to fighting climate change in the long run.
An increase in Pakistan’s population has immensely strained the natural gas resources in the
country. Natural gas is almost always in short supply now during the winters. Having solar-
powered waters both for domestic and commercial use can significantly reduce the nation’s
dependence on natural gas and thermal power.
Cooking is a vital human phenomenon. All modern societies, without exception, are involved in
this activity. However, it also accounts for one of the highest uses of fuel and energy. As far as
cooking for consumption is concerned, south Asian countries are amongst the highest in the
world. One-third of all energy consumed in south Asia is used for the cooking of food.
Solar cookers are an excellent option to reduce energy consumption in Pakistan. They are
cheaper than wood, natural gas and petrol, making them viable for both people with limited
budgets and also climate-conscious individuals. Wood is still a major source of energy in rural
Pakistan. Replacing traditional methods with solar-powered cooking tools can significantly
reduce deforestation. There are many types of solar cookers available on the market. And with
solar panels easier to finance than ever, solar cooking is a viable option now.
Unfortunately, Pakistan is far behind other countries like China and India when it comes to solar
cooking. There is significant room to expand in this field. One of the main draws is that solar
cookers do not alter the taste of the food; however, they do take more time to cook. This is just
one of the trade-offs people will have to weigh. On one hand, we have expensive and unreliable
gas and wood that is both difficult to harvest and a major source of pollution, and on the other
hand, we have solar cookers that use the sun’s infinite energy, though they take some time to
Dryers are another vital instrument in Pakistan’s agricultural industry. Fruits are one of
Pakistan’s major exports. They are exported and consumed fresh, or dried and stored for use in
the off-season. Solar dryers are the single best way to dry fruits. Open-air drying is not advisable
for fruits, as it causes them to lose flavour and nutritional value. Using solar dryers is far more
acceptable, as it maintains the flavour, taste and texture of the fruits. It is also faster and far more
efficient. Not only is it better for the consumer, but it also benefits the environment because it
Solar Panels on Water Canals
By 2030, solar PV systems with over 8000 megawatts are projected to be installed in Pakistan.
This is a healthy projection, but may be subject to change, given that the government’s policies
remain fickle at best. Installing solar PV systems near or at the point of energy consumption is an
excellent way to reduce transmission costs and losses.
The one problem with mainstream solar farms is that while they do provide efficient and
environmentally friendly energy, they are land-intensive. Solar farms require a lot of lands. And
while Pakistan has land to spare, particularly in the province of Balochistan, there remains the
problem that most of the energy consumption is in Punjab and Sindh, where most of Pakistan’s
population and industries are located. The land in these areas is also expensive, meaning that the
price of solar energy will increase. Any long-term solution involved a conservative use of land or
use of land in a manner that is beneficial for the property. Fortunately, this is one of the
advantages of solar energy.
Solar-on-Water (SoW) is an ideal solution to these issues. Pakistan is among the 36 most water-
stressed countries in the world. It also has the dubious distinction of having the lowest annual
precipitation (464 mm) in South Asia. This is lower than the average figure for South Asia. By
2025, the per capita availability of water will be only 500 cubic metres 2025. This will make
Pakistan fall into the “water-scarce” category.
The only way to solve this is to:
- Increase water supply
- Increase water efficiency
Increasing supply entails reforestation, combating climate change, increasing the footprint of
green energy and cutting back on carbon emissions. As one can imagine, this is not a short-term
solution. It will take many decades, but will also pay dividends in the long run.
In the short to medium term, Pakistan should be focusing on water efficiency and reducing
wastage. Pakistan’s water productivity is extremely low and losses are high. The two major
sources of water loss in Pakistan are:
- Conveyance losses
- Evaporation losses
Evaporation losses alone are at an estimated 15 million acre-feet, taken from a total supply of
193 million acre-feet. This data is likely to vary somewhat based on the year and the source of
data, but this is nevertheless a reasonable estimate. Combating evaporation should be a major
focus for water preservation.
Pakistan has one of the largest and most extensive water irrigation networks in the world. If
water bodies like canals, dams and irrigation canals are covered and protected from exposure to
direct sunlight, evaporation losses can be minimised. What better way to achieve this than
floating solar and canal-top solar energy systems?
Pakistan’s major dams and reservoirs like Mangla, Basha, Munda and others are ideal for the
installation of floating PV systems. The World Bank was previously sponsoring a project to
install floating PV systems on the Tarbela reservoir, but this project is only just seeing
Other than major reservoirs, canals are an excellent place to install water-top solar PV systems.
The total length of Pakistan’s canals is 62,648km, with field ditches running an additional 1.6
million km. If a capacity of 1MW per square km is installed on these canals, Pakistan can
theoretically generate 62,640MW of clean, solar energy, and this is a conservative estimate.
Theoretically, Pakistan can meet all its requirements for land by simply installing solar PV
systems on canals. Nevertheless, Pakistan will not need to install solar-on-canal systems on the
entire canal routes.
There are questions of feasibility that arise when considering these options. However, over 35
countries are currently operating over 350 floating PV systems. Though most of these systems
are smaller, with a combined output of 2.6GW, the technology is proven. Countries like Japan,
South Korea and the US are currently spearheading the effort to develop and deploy large-scale
floating solar PV systems.
There are several advantages to floating solar PV systems on canals.
- Firstly, they can be built right next to Pakistan’s bread basket without the need to use
fertile agricultural land.
- Secondly, it saves cost in terms of petrol and fuel consumption. This benefit only
increases with time.
- Thirdly, since it is right next to agricultural areas, it can help power farms that may
otherwise have remained off the grid altogether. Electricity can drastically improve
productivity in agriculture.
- Fourthly, they will help save costs from transmission lines and distribution
- Fifthly, it is water efficient. Not only does it prevent evaporation, but water is also readily
available to wash the solar panels, which can then just drain back into the canal.
- Sixthly, only small inverters need to be installed at shorter distances because electricity
will only have to be drawn at short distances.
- Finally, the availability of water means that the ambient temperature will remain
relatively low. This will help increase the yield of the solar PV systems by 1-2%. While
this may not seem like a lot, a 1-2% increase in output is spectacular for sole panels.
Furthermore, floating solar PV systems can hybridise the national energy mix, thereby making
the grid more resilient to power outages and fluctuations. Solar-on canals are without a doubt an
excellent investment in time and resources. As with all solar PV systems, it will pay for itself
many times over the course of its lifespan.
Solar desalination is another excellent area where Pakistan can make use of solar PV systems to
support its agricultural sector. Desalination is the process of removing salt and other impurities
from brackish or seawater.
Solar Water Pumps
Solar-powered water pumps are another excellent way to make use of solar energy to support
Pakistan’s agricultural sector. As already mentioned, Pakistan is a water-stressed country.
Relying on water pumps to extract water will not only help combat climate change but will also
provide free pumping to remote areas where electricity is unavailable and fuel is too expensive.
How Integra Solar is Helping Combat the Heat waves in Pakistan.
Integra Solar Pakistan is a sister company to Integra Solar Australia and Prosun Solar Australia.
We are among Pakistan’s largest solar PV system suppliers. In addition to that, Integra Solar
Pakistan is also setting foot into the manufacturing domain in partnership with another sister
company Phantom Solar.
Integra Solar Pakistan aims to expand the national footprint of solar energy in Pakistan. We truly
believe that green, clean energy is the only way forward for our nation, and there is no source of
energy cleaner and greener than solar energy.
Integra Solar Pakistan is all about community. We are big believers in community service and in
giving back. To this end, 10% of all our profits are given to charity. Furthermore, Integra Solar
launches regular charity events throughout Pakistan, ranging from funning free soup kitchens to
free meals for the lesser advantaged members of society. We strongly believe in uplifting the
Pakistani working class and envision a future where even the remotest Pakistani households have
access to clean, green energy. We do not believe in waiting for the government to instigate
change. We are working steadily and surely, to bring about the change we wish to see both in
Pakistan and the world.
One of the biggest challenges solar energy faces in Pakistan is a lack of awareness. The average
Pakistani citizen does not have the same level of awareness of climate change and the
importance of clean energy as we would like. Therefore, Integra Solar Pakistan is partnering with
Saeed Ajmal, world-famous cricketer and spinning legend, to help raise awareness through
TVCs and ad campaigns. We hope to not only raise awareness about solar energy but also help
dispel the notion that solar energy systems are unaffordable for the common Pakistani.
The average Pakistani does not have purchasing power compared to more modern countries.
Unfortunately, even in comparison to our neighbour India, Pakistan ranks much lower on the
Purchasing Power Parity Index. To offset this, Integra Solar Pakistan has partnered with multiple
well-reputed banks across the nation. We hope to use this partnership to make purchasing panels
on leases and instalments as easy and hassle-free for Pakistani customers as possible.
In light of the recent heat waves that are pushing Pakistan closer and closer to the brink, it is
imperative that we begin treating our climate as an issue of national security. In the nation’s first-
ever national security police, climate change was indeed marked as a vital area of interest.
However, government policies do not reflect this. Fortunately, the newly minted Sharif regime
has seen the wisdom in removing all import taxes on solar panels and other energy systems, but
this is not enough. Combating climate change must be prioritised at the highest rungs of
leadership. We must ensure that the nation not only recognises the need to take effective
measures immediately, but we need to see effective government support for these efforts.
Integra Solar is doing our part, but we cannot do it alone. We need you, the people of Pakistan,
to step up and make your voices heard. We must act today if we want to have a better tomorrow.