Field Research

The Potential of Renewable Energy in Pakistan: case study of off-grid hydro power projects

In the last week of May 2023 Najam Memon from the junior research group SteuerBoard Energie embarked on a journey of PhD field research in Pakistan. During his field visit, he engaged with Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) in Islamabad and met various stakeholders including Agha Khan Rural Support Programme (AKRSP), Sarhad Rural Support Programme (SRSP), Gilgit Baltistan Rural Support Program (GBRSP), and other local and national institutes and experts in the energy sector. As a part of his research, special focus was paid on understanding the financing and regulatory frameworks of the bottom-up energy models across the country. Based on literature, the northern parts, i.e. Gilgit, Hunza, Chitral, Azad and Jammu Kashmir (Neelum) etc.,  were chosen as a sample. Snowballing and nomination techniques were adopted to collect the primary and secondary data. During his visit, Najam Memon managed to engage with different rural, off-grid communities and explored different cases of community energy models.


The preliminary findings are:

  • In general, two types of community energy models were found in the selected regions, 1. Committee based community organization (CCO) – more informal sort of organization, managing the Operation and maintenance of project with traditional means, 2. Community based public limited utility company (CPLC) – more formal and organized model, registered as a company with securities and exchange commission of Pakistan (SECP).
  • Most of the community energy models evolve around hydroelectricity either installed with donor grants (United Nations Development Program, World Bank Group, Asian Development Bank etc.) or funded under special initiative(s) / packages.

  • To harness the real potential of renewable energy resources and successfully benefit from the community energy model(s) there should be a proper business model. Unfortunately, the CCO’s lack such business model, which often makes those models unsustainable. However, CPLC are a step forward with proper rules, byelaws and working business models which qualify them as sustainable community model i.e., Mough (Pamir Cluster Powerhouse Mough), Ahmadabad (Ahmedabad Power Production Public Limited Hunza).

  • The goal of achieving the energy transition and especially SDG 7 in Pakistan seems unrealistic due to increasing inequality in energy access for Pakistanis.

  • Decades old grid infrastructure and lack of enhancing the grid capacity will create huge challenges for Pakistan in transmitting the power loads in the future.

  • There is lack of entrepreneurship in the energy sector of Pakistan.

Impressions of the research stay

(Pictures: Najam Memon, 2023)

Azad & Jammu Kashmir (Neelum)