In April 2015, the government of Pakistan imposed a ban on development of new grid-connected wind and solar power projects citing their higher cost of generation compared to fossil fuel based power generation. Although the government has officially adopted the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, yet the focus has been shifted to setting up natural gas and coal fired power plants; a strategy which does not seem consistent with the government’s declared guiding principle of sustainable development for formulating national policies.
The aim of this research is to determine whether reneging on support for new renewable energy (wind and solar) projects by the government of Pakistan is a sustainable policy option or not. Six technology options (RLNG, coal, nuclear, large hydro, wind and solar) forming the government’s power generation plan till 2020 have been compared holistically on economic, social, environmental and technical criteria using the Multi Criteria Decision Analysis to identify and rank the most sustainable options. Pros and cons associated with this policy decision have also been addressed by comparing the costs of generation, technical characteristics and GHG emissions of renewable and fossil fuel technologies.
The results show that the government’s decision does not support sustainable development, and out of the compared technologies, hydel is the most sustainable option followed by nuclear. The government preferred options, RLNG and coal, are the least sustainable ones. Results have further been discussed from a sustainability perspective and a sensitivity analysis has also been performed to assess the robustness of the findings. Based on the results, policy recommendations have also been made to support sustainable development in the country’s power sector.