Solar Energy and Climate Change: Islamabad’s Role in Global Efforts

Solar Energy & Climate Change Islamabad's Global Impact - 2023

The impacts of climate change threaten communities worldwide through rising temperatures, shifting weather patterns, and increased frequency of extreme weather events. As a major contributor to global carbon emissions, Pakistan has an important role to play in climate change mitigation efforts. Expanding renewable energy from sources like solar power represents a key strategy. Islamabad, as the nation’s capital, can lead the way in supporting national solar energy growth, reducing Pakistan’s reliance on fossil fuels, lowering carbon emissions, and inspiring further climate action.

The Climate Change Crisis

Climate change refers to long-term shifts in global temperatures and weather patterns, primarily driven by human activities like fossil fuel combustion and deforestation. Key indicators of climate change include:

  • Rising global temperatures
  • Melting polar ice sheets and glaciers
  • Sea level rise
  • Changes in precipitation patterns
  • Increased frequency of extreme weather

These changes are already causing widespread impacts:

  • More severe storms, floods, droughts, and heat waves
  • Shifting growing seasons and habitats
  • Ocean warming and acidification
  • Public health threats from heat, weather disasters, disease
  • Water scarcity risks
  • Coastal erosion and property damage
  • Biodiversity and ecosystem losses

Without urgent action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and limit further warming, climate change impacts are projected to intensify significantly throughout this century.

Pakistan’s Contribution to Climate Change

While Pakistan contributes a relatively small portion to cumulative historical emissions, it remains among the countries most vulnerable to climate change risks. Various reports have highlighted Pakistan’s increasing carbon emissions in recent decades:

  • Pakistan produced nearly 390 million tonnes of CO2 in 2019. 
  • Pakistan’s CO2 emissions have grown over 200% since 1990.
  • The country has one of the highest carbon emission growth rates globally. 
  • Pakistan’s per capita emissions recently surpassed the global average.
YearTotal CO2 Emissions (million tonnes)Per Capita Emissions (tonnes per person)

Table 1: Pakistan’s rising CO2 emissions over time. (Source: Our World in Data)

This rising trajectory reveals an urgent need for Pakistan to implement measures that reverse growth in carbon emissions and transition to clean energy alternatives.

Solar Energy’s Role in Climate Change Mitigation

Transitioning from fossil fuels like oil, coal and natural gas to renewable energy sources represents a critical climate change mitigation strategy worldwide. Solar photovoltaic (PV) energy, which converts sunlight into electricity, offers unique advantages:


  • Solar PV systems can be deployed at small and large scales, from rooftop panels to massive solar farms.

Falling Costs

  • The levelized cost of solar electricity has dropped 89% in the last decade, making it more affordable and competitive. 

Energy Independence

  • Solar allows generation of electricity on-site, reducing reliance on imported fossil fuels prone to price volatility.

Peak Output Alignment

  • Solar generation peaks during daytime hours of high energy demand.

Low Environmental Impact

  • Solar PV produces no direct carbon emissions during operation. It has among the lowest environmental footprints per kWh of all electricity sources. 

Grid Stability

  • Distributed solar PV enhances grid resilience and stability. Rooftop solar also reduces burden on overstretched grids.

Job Creation

  • Solar PV creates over 3 times as many jobs per unit energy generated compared to fossil fuels. 

For all these reasons, solar energy is poised to play a major role in clean energy transitions globally. Government policies like incentives, mandates, and financing options can accelerate solar PV adoption.

Pakistan’s Solar Energy Potential

Pakistan is geographically situated in a region with some of the highest solar irradiance levels worldwide. Studies have identified tremendous solar power generation potential across Pakistan:

  • Pakistan’s total solar power potential exceeds 2.9 million MW – over 200 times total current power demand. 
  • The country receives 2000-2200 kWh per m2 of solar radiation annually. 
  • Solar maps indicate 5-7 kWh/m2 per day of irradiation across most of Pakistan. 
  • Over 320 sunny days per year in most parts of Pakistan are ideal for solar PV. 
ProvinceTechnical Solar Potential (MW)
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa520,351

Table 2: Solar power generation potential by province in Pakistan. 

Realizing even a fraction of this vast solar potential would allow Pakistan to massively scale clean energy and reduce reliance on imported fuels like LNG, oil, and coal that negatively impact its trade deficit.

Solar Energy Progress and Targets in Pakistan

In recent years Pakistan has taken steps to begin tapping its immense solar power potential. Key developments include:

  • By 2019 over 30 solar PV projects were operational with total generation capacity exceeding 400 MW. 
  • Pakistan aims to achieve 20% of electricity from renewable sources including solar by 2025 and 30% by 2030 under its Alternative and Renewable Energy Policy. 
  • Under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), $25 billion in renewable energy projects are planned, including large-scale solar power installations. 
  • Net metering regulations were enacted to allow grid connectivity and net billing for distributed solar PV systems up to 1 MW in capacity. 
  • Import duties and sales tax on renewable energy technologies were exempted to incentivize adoption.
  • While an encouraging start, Pakistan will need to dramatically accelerate the pace of solar energy growth to realize its full potential, attract needed investment in the sector, and maximize solar’s role in national decarbonization.

The Role of Islamabad and ICT

As the capital city and center of governance, Islamabad has an outsized role to play in supporting the growth of solar power across Pakistan. Leadership from Islamabad and the surrounding ICT region on solar adoption and policy can drive momentum for broader progress.

Islamabad Solar Irradiance

Islamabad has very favorable solar conditions to support substantial PV capacity:

  • 5-6 kWh/m2 per day of solar insolation on average
  • 6-7 peak sun hours per day during summer
  • 300+ sunny days annually

This irradiation is ideal for achieving high solar PV productivity year-round.

Potential for Leadership

As a forward-looking capital city, Islamabad can lead by example on solar energy adoption, demonstrating its benefits and viability while inspiring other cities and provinces. Specific leadership opportunities include:

  • Policy Support: Legislating new solar incentives and financing mechanisms that can be replicated nationwide.
  • Direct Investment: Funding major solar projects serving government infrastructure to lead by example.
  • Distributed Solar Targets: Setting goals and programs to accelerate distributed solar adoption on homes and businesses.
  • Solar Skill Development: Investing in solar workforce training programs centered in Islamabad.
  • International Collaboration: Partnering with leading solar entities abroad to bring knowledge and investment to Pakistan.

ICT Solar Initiatives

Some initial solar leadership initiatives emerging from Islamabad and the ICT region include:

  • Planned deployment of on-grid solar PPAs totaling 150 MW. 
  • Net metering program allowing grid connectivity of small-scale renewables. 
  • Master planning and feasibility studies for large solar parks near Islamabad. 
  • Training programs for solar technicians and PV professionals through technical institutes. 

However, substantially greater efforts focused on Islamabad and the ICT region will be vital to unlock Pakistan’s immense solar energy potential and demonstrate robust models for national replication.

Recommendations to Boost Islamabad’s Solar Leadership

To strengthen Islamabad’s leadership on solar power and inspire broader national climate action, key recommendations include:

Streamline bureaucracy and regulations

  • Cut red tape on solar permitting, licensing and environmental approvals to accelerate projects.

Expand master planning for solar parks

  • Identify land near Islamabad suitable for utility-scale PV parks and conduct feasibility studies.

Increase distributed solar incentives

  • Offer additional incentives like rebates, tax credits, and low-cost financing for rooftop solar on homes and commercial businesses.

Enact solar mandates

  • Implement mandates such as solar PV requirements for large buildings or parking lots to drive adoption.

Fund government solar projects

  • Allocate funding to install solar arrays on government buildings, properties and facilities across Islamabad and ICT.

Strengthen net metering policies

  • Improve net metering program terms to increase incentives and accessibility for participating in distributed generation.

Invest in workforce development

  • Fund solar energy vocational programs through technical institutes to build critical workforce capacity and skills.

Partner with international solar leaders

  • Cultivate public/private partnerships with leading solar entities abroad to attract investment and knowledge transfer.

Raise public awareness

  • Launch solar education campaigns on benefits, viability, and methods to increase interest and acceptance.

With proactive leadership, Islamabad can play a pivotal demonstration role in realizing Pakistan’s vast solar power potential, creating jobs, achieving energy independence, and tackling the critical threat of climate change.


In summary, aggressive development of solar photovoltaic energy represents a major opportunity for Pakistan to control rising carbon emissions, slow climate change, enhance energy security, and build a new industry for economic growth. As the nation’s political and regulatory center, Islamabad holds an important leadership position in accelerating solar adoption countrywide. By implementing planning, incentives, mandates, public funding and partnerships focused on large-scale Islamabad solar projects, distributed commercial/residential PV systems, and workforce training, Pakistan’s capital can drive momentum towards a solar-powered future that benefits the economy and environment for generations to come.

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