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Life cycle sustainability assessment of

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regime for a sustainable energy mix

Article in Energy Policy · September 2017

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Energy Policy 111 (2017) 111–126

Contents lists available at ScienceDirect

Energy Policy
journal homepage:

Life cycle sustainability assessment of electricity generation in Pakistan: MARK

Policy regime for a sustainable energy mix
Muhammad Zeshan Akber, Muhammad Jamaluddin Thaheem⁎, Husnain Arshad
Dept. of Construction Engineering & Management (CE & M), NIT-SCEE, National University of Sciences & Technology (NUST), Islamabad, Pakistan


Keywords: Electricity crisis has become a key issue in Pakistan mainly due to a tenacious and spreading gap between
Electricity generation demand and supply. Moreover, the current production is causing severe environmental and energy security
Sustainable development issues due to reliance on thermal sources. Stakeholders are hindered to address these issues due to a significant
Life cycle thinking knowledge gap causing discrepancies in power policies. A comprehensive approach over the sustainability di-
Energy policy
mensions is missing due to non-adoption of life cycle thinking. This study adopts an integrated approach of life
Policy framework
cycle sustainability assessment of the electricity sector in Pakistan for proposing policy guidelines and im-
plementation framework to optimize the future energy mixes. In total, 20 sustainability indicators have been
assessed covering life cycle of seven electricity generation sources, currently in use. These sources have been
ranked by equally weighting the sustainability dimensions and respective indicators. Hydropower is found as the
most sustainable option having lowest environmental and economic impacts. While due to worst economic and
social impacts, oil is found to be the least sustainable option for the country. While establishing tradeoffs be-
tween different electricity generation sources, this study presents an unbiased view and highlights the worth of
life cycle approach in sustainability assessment for improving the energy policies.

1. Introduction production are governed by sustainable development (Aboushady and

El-Sawy, 2013; Santoyo-Castelazo and Azapagic, 2014). Energy in the
Sustainable development (SD) is a dynamic process aimed at bal- form of electricity production has central importance in the overall
ancing the current and future competing needs (Azapagic et al., 2004). growth of a nation along with other industries. A sustainable mean of
It has evolved from environmental and economic domains to embrace electricity production can improve economy, quality of life and social
the societal, technological, institutional and political necessities of the wellbeing of a country (Maxim, 2014). With an initial focus on en-
world (Meyar-Naimi and Vaez-Zadeh, 2013; Štreimikienė et al., 2016). vironmental issues, the electricity production is now being studied to
Because of the growing concerns over unsustainable practices, neces- enhance economic, social and technological aspects in the developed as
sary processes and methods have been developed and used to assess, well as developing regions. Research on sustainable electricity pro-
manage and improve sustainability. Since sustainable development has duction varies with respect to many features such as depth of study,
an overarching mandate, one of the widely adopted approaches for technological level, temporal and geographical distribution, and tools
achieving it is life cycle thinking which enhances the sustainability in used for assessment and integration of different sustainability dimen-
different sectors and industries (Ness et al., 2007). Various life cycle sions (Santoyo-Castelazo and Azapagic, 2014).
techniques such as Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), Life Cycle Costing Table 1 summarizes a total of 161 indicators that are used in 29
(LCC), Social Life Cycle Assessment (S-LCA) and Life Cycle Sustain- different studies of separate regions throughout the world to study the
ability Assessment (LCSA) have been developed to cover various di- sustainable electricity production. The reviewed studies, published
mensions of sustainable development (Rovere La et al., 2010; UNEP, during years 2002–2017, reflect the accumulated knowledge of last 15
2012). years. The synthesized indicators are grouped into 11 sustainability
Various sectors and industries including manufacturing, infra- issues covering the three generalized groups of sustainability; en-
structure, construction, urban development, agriculture, mining and vironment, techno-economy and socio-politics. Though there are some
mineral extraction, education, and most importantly, electricity indicators that can be placed in more than one sustainability issues,

Corresponding author.
E-mail addresses:, (M.Z. Akber), (M.J. Thaheem), (H. Arshad).
Received 30 May 2017; Received in revised form 7 September 2017; Accepted 10 September 2017
0301-4215/ © 2017 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Table 1
Sustainability issues and indicators for electricity generation.

Sr No. Sustainability Issue Indicators Country/Region Reference

M.Z. Akber et al.

Environment Gagnon et al.

1 Emission to air, water and soil GWP; Ozone depletion; Acidification; Eutrophication; Photochemical oxidant creation; UK, Germany, Australia, (2002);
Freshwater, Marine and Terrestrial ecotoxicity; NMVOC, Particulate matter and Mercury Singapore, Austria, Góralczyk (2003);
emissions; Ecotoxicity; Air pollution; Hydrocarbons accidental spills; Emissions of several Spain, Portugal, Mexico, Hirschberg et al.
pollutants; Radioactivity (impact of radon); TOPP; Water quality; Winter smog; India, Indonesia, (2004);
Ecological impact of zinc; Smog; Threatened species; Ionizing radiation (Total=23) Mauritius, Turkey, US, May and Brennan
Poland, Iran and (2006);
Lithuania Kannan et al.
2 Resource consumption Water consumption; Uranium energy depletion; Exergy destruction; Use of abiotic UK, Germany, Australia, (2007);
resources (elements and fossil fuels) (Total=5) Singapore, Austria, Chatzimouratidis
Spain, Portugal, Mexico, and Pilavachi
India, Indonesia, (2009);
Mauritius, Turkey, US Evans et al.
and Poland (2009);
3 Land use and quality Land occupation; Change in unprotected ecosystem area; Greenfield land use; UK, Germany, Spain, Genoud and
Biodiversity; Land contaminations; Percentage effective land use; Urban land occupation; India, US and Iran Lesourd (2009);
Natural land transformation; Land use competition (Total=9) Kowalski et al.
4 Waste related issues Recyclability of input materials; Chemical, Hazardous solid, Non-hazard solid and Total UK, Germany, Australia, (2009)
waste; Treatment of waste; Critical waste confinement time; Waste repository (Total=8) Spain and Lithuania Schenler et al.
5 Others Energy payback ratio; Compliance with local natural conditions (Total=2) Iran and Lithuania (2009)
Techno-Economic Albo et al. (2010)
1 Financial Economic dispatchability; Capital, O & M, Fuel, Annualized, Marginal, Decommissioning, UK, Germany, Australia, Carrera and Mack
External, and Total levelized costs; Financing risk; Fuel price sensitivity; Financial Singapore, Austria, (2010)
incentives and assistance; Value added; Capital inclusive value added; Cost benefit index Mexico, Turkey, US, Iran Gujba et al. (2010)
(CBI); Payback period; Profitability index (Total=17) and Lithuania Rovere et al.

2 Operability Capacity and Availability factor; Technical dispatchability; Technological lock-in; Time to UK, Germany, Austria, (2010)
plant start-up from start of construction; Flexibility; Availability and technological US, Iran and Lithuania Dorini et al. (2011)
limitations; Efficiency of energy generations; Renewability; Electrical generation Stamford and
potential; Per capita generation; Equivalent inertia; Auxiliary consumption; Azapagic (2011)
Technological competitiveness, Reliability, Innovativeness and Advantage; Durability of Stamford and
technology; Dependency to foreign electrical and Mechanical technology; Maturity in Azapagic (2012)
engineering and management activities; Lifetime of global fuel reserves at current Meyar-Naimi and
extraction rates (Total=22) Vaez-Zadeh (2013)
Socio-Political Garcia et al.
1 Employment Direct, Indirect and Total employment (direct + indirect); Average job income level; Job UK, Germany, Australia, (2014)
seasonality; Qualified manpower (Total=6) Austria, Turkey, US, Maxim (2014)
Mexico, Iran Santoyo-Castelazo
2 Health and safety Worker fatalities; Human toxicity potential; Worker human health impacts and Total UK, Germany, Australia, and Azapagic
human health impacts from radiation; Fatalities due to large accidents; Mortality; Spain, Mexico, India, (2014)
Maximum credible number of fatalities per accident; Worker injuries; Toxin release; Indonesia, Mauritius, Brizmohun et al.
Carcinogenic and Non-carcinogenic; Respiratory effects (Total = 12) Turkey, US and Iran (2015)
3 Security and reliability of energy Geo-political factors; Amount of imported fossil fuel potentially avoided; Diversity of fuel UK, Germany, Austria, Hanafi and Riman
resources supply mix; Fuel storage capabilities; Proliferation; Diversity of technologies; Potential EU, Mexico, Turkey, Iran (2015)
and effects of terrorism; Security and reliability of energy provision; Technology's and Lithuania Klein and Whalley
autonomy (dependence on resource provision); (Total = 10) (2015)
4 Political and institutional stability Fuel autonomy; Percentage of imported inputs; Private participation in total system; Germany, EU, Mexico, Shah and
and legitimacy Political conflict, participation and stability and legitimacy; Governance; Immunity to Iran and Lithuania Unnikrishnan,
terrorism and obstructionism; Compliance with international obligations; Legal (2015)
regulation of activities; Support of government institutions political organizations; Atilgan and
Influence on sustainable development of energy (Total = 12) Azapagic (2016)
5 Quality of life and local Proportion of staff hired from local community; Spending on local suppliers; Direct UK, Germany, Austria, Li et al. (2016)
community impact investment in local community; Involvement of countries in the life cycle with known EU, Mexico, Iran and Štreimikienė et al.
corruption problems; Volume of radioactive waste to be stored; Volume of liquid CO2 to Lithuania (2016)
be stored; Noise; Visual amenity; Adaptability; Perceived risk normal operation and Rodríguez-Serrano
Accountability; Landscape; Displacement (of people and animals); River damage; Odor; et al. (2017)
Energy Policy 111 (2017) 111–126

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M.Z. Akber et al. Energy Policy 111 (2017) 111–126

they are categorized as per relevance and convenience. For example,

human toxicity potential can be used to examine both health and safety
issue as well as emissions to air, water and soil (May and Brennan,

2006; Stamford and Azapagic, 2012). However, for this research, it has
been included in the health and safety issue. Another example is abiotic
resource depletions which can be related to both environmental and
social sustainability (Albo et al., 2010; Stamford and Azapagic, 2012).
There are some overlapping indicators which can be expressed either
explicitly or grouped into a common indicator. For example, ecotoxicity
potential of fresh and marine waters feeds into water quality indicator.
Another example is levelized cost which is calculated by adding capital,
operations and maintenance (O & M) and fuel costs (Gujba et al., 2010).

Environmental sustainability related to electricity generation has

Not Specified

been summarized in four major issues as emissions to air, water and

soil, resource consumption, land use and quality, and waste related
issues (Atilgan and Azapagic, 2016; Rovere et al., 2010; Schenler et al.,
2009). Global warming potential (GWP) is the top most consideration
of environmental sustainability and more than 80% studies have dis-
cussed it. Other mostly considered indicators associated with the issue
of emission to air, water and soil are acidification, eutrophication,
ozone depletion, and water and terrestrial ecotoxicity. Abiotic depletion
of fossils and elements, and water consumption are the mostly studied
cohesion; Social justice; Ecological justice; Social and individual risks; Production of good
Notion of public good; Use of local energy resources; Regional self-determinacy; Social

indicators under the umbrella of resources consumption issue. Land

Community infrastructures; Fuel Poverty; Influence on social welfare; Influence on
and services; Quality of life; Intergenerational issues; Labor rights; Human rights;

occupation or land requirement is another mostly assessed indicator

which is considered in 44% of reviewed articles.
The indicators related to techno-economic sustainability are listed
under two main groups, as financial and operability issues
(Chatzimouratidis and Pilavachi, 2009). Capital and levelized costs,
Bird strike risk; Seismic activity; Transport Modeling (Total = 3)

capacity and availability factors, and energy efficiency are the most
prominent indicators in this group.
The third dimension of sustainable development is socio-political
which is sub grouped as employment, health and safety, security and
sustainable development of society (Total = 31)

reliability of energy sources, political and institutional stability and

legitimacy, and quality of life and local community impact (Carrera and
Mack, 2010; Meyar-Naimi and Vaez-Zadeh, 2013; Stamford and
Azapagic, 2011; Štreimikienė et al., 2016). Socio-political sustainability
is measured by a large variety of indicators most of which are quali-
tative in nature, but have a low frequency of appearance in past studies.
Whereas, quantitative indicators such as direct and indirect jobs, and
worker injuries and fatalities are the top most measures to assess social
sustainability as synthesized from previous literature. Security and re-
liability of energy sources is another frequently stressed area to assess
social sustainability of electricity production (Carrera and Mack, 2010;

Santoyo-Castelazo and Azapagic, 2014).

Since a safe and robust energy supply is essential to cater for the
soaring demands of developing infrastructure and industry (Kessides,
2013), sustainable electricity generation becomes one of the most im-
portant factors to cultivate the economy and improve living standards
of a country. Pakistan is a developing country and its electricity con-
sumption is growing annually at a rate of 11% (Awan and Rashid,
2012). Since the last decade, it is facing serious outages and has failed
to meet the electricity demand, resulting into critical governance issues
(Lodhi and Malik, 2013; Sakrani et al., 2012). In 2015, the total in-
stalled capacity of the country was 24,823 MW while maximum de-
Sustainability Issue

mand was 26,437 MW (NEPRA, 2015). Reacting to this serious elec-

tricity deficit, authorities are involved in energy summits and long
debates to find panacea for electricity shortages. Various possible re-

newable and nonrenewable sources of electricity production are being

considered to propose short-, mid- and long-term solutions to this
nuisance (Valasai et al., 2017).
The total electricity generated in the country during 2014–15 was
Table 1 (continued)

109,059 GWh and almost two-thirds (69,988 GWh) of this was from
thermal sources (NEPRA, 2015). Such large reliance on fossil-powered
electricity results into huge environmental impact. Alarmingly in 2013,
Sr No.

the CO2 emissions from the electricity and heat production sector was

31.3% of total fuel combustion (WB, 2016). Though environment has

M.Z. Akber et al. Energy Policy 111 (2017) 111–126

Goal and scope definition hydropower and other renewables (EDMS, 2007). A need to devise such
a plan was mainly driven by the fact that Pakistan's geo-strategic po-
sition and its importance are at the core of its energy security issues
Sustainability indicators selection (Sahir and Qureshi, 2007). Government of Pakistan also promoted the
energy conservation program in 2008 and 2010.
Documentation review
Ecoinvent To meet the current electricity deficit in the country, National
Power Policy (2013) was announced with meticulous targets and ob-
Life cycle sustainability inventory
Semi-structured jectives as a way forward for short-, mid- and long-term. Keeping these
interviews objectives intact, Power Generation Policy (2015) aims to:
Economic Environmental Social
i. meet the supply-demand gap from 4500 MW to 5000 MW till 2017
assessment assessment
by energy conservation practices and improving the system effi-
ciency for decreasing the transmission and distribution losses from
Result and discussions ~ 23–25% to ~16%;
ii. increase the affordability by reducing electricity cost from 12c/unit
Conclusions and recommendations to almost 10c/unit by 2017 through indigenous resources such as
coal (Thar coal) and hydel as inexpensive and affordable means;
Fig. 1. Adopted research methodology for life cycle sustainability assessment of elec- iii. improve the governance for immediate delivery of electric projects
tricity sector in.
in pipeline.

As a quick solution to energy crises, policy focus has remained on

not been traditionally focused as a top priority in Pakistan, recent in- short-term solutions, including coal as a source of electricity genera-
itiatives and policies show a high concern about environmental pro- tion, which is evident from launching of new power generation units in
tection. Implementation of Energy Efficient Renovation (EER) and Sahiwal and Thar, and procurement of new projects under China-
modernization aims at reducing the GHG emission along with im- Pakistan Economic Corridor. Other breaches that add to the ill func-
proving efficiency and optimizing the fuel consumption for power tioning of current policy include non-adoption of life cycle thinking
plants (Abbasi et al., 2014). Inclusion of affordable and clean energy, resulting into the lack of understanding about sustainable electricity
and climate action in the agenda of Sustainable Development Goals production (Qudrat-Ullah, 2015). In the light of this preamble, Paki-
(SDGs) 2015–2030 also highlights the ambition of authorities regarding stan's energy policy requires an integrated, systematic and economic
environmental protection and quality of life for the people of Pakistan approach for shaping a sustainable policy inception along with an im-
(LEAD, 2016). Further, being part of Kyoto Protocol, there is an in- plementation framework that upholds the letter and spirit of sustain-
creasing pressure to reduce emissions related to thermal power which ability. It should represent an adequate tradeoff between energic, eco-
contributes major part of the national electric-mix (Iqbal et al., 2010). nomic and environmental aspects.
The higher reliance on thermal sources also brings the issue related to In line with this motivation, the current study provides a new way of
fuel supply chain. In year 2014–2015, Pakistan imported 71% of total thinking for policy makers and stakeholders by evaluating and com-
required crude oil for oil-based power plants (MPNS, 2016; PBS, 2016). paring different electricity generation sources currently operational in
Pakistan's first meticulous energy policy was launched in 1994, the country, with respect to their environmental, economic and socio-
which aimed at adding 30,000 MW of electricity produced through political aspects in a life cycle perspective.
thermal sources. Previously, out of 11,000 MW, more than 60% was
produced through hydroelectric sources, however this policy trans-
formed the energy mix from 60%–40% to 30%–70% in favor of thermal 2. Research methodology
sources of electricity generation (Policy, 1994). Power Generation
Policy (2002) was a major initiative for capacity development against Assessment of sustainability of electricity sector in Pakistan involves
least cost for the user through existing native resources. Later, Energy five core steps. First, the goal and scope of this study are defined and
Security Action Plan was announced in 2005 with an objective of then, through literature review, indicators are selected based on the
consistent, diversified and quality sources of energy including coal, gas, most prominent sustainability issues in energy sector. After developing
the inventory in third step, different electricity generation options are

Fig. 2. System boundary defining scope of study.

M.Z. Akber et al. Energy Policy 111 (2017) 111–126

Table 2
Sustainability indicators for current study.

Sustainability Dimension Sustainability Indicators Units Sustainability Issues

Environment Abiotic resource depletion (elements) kg Sb eq/kWh Resource consumption

Abiotic resource depletion (fossils) MJ/kWh Resource consumption
Global warming kg CO2 eq/kWh Emission to air, water and soil
Acidification kg SO2 eq/kWh Emission to air, water and soil
Eutrophication kg PO4 eq/kWh Emission to air, water and soil
Fresh water ecotoxicity kg DCB eq/kWh Emission to air, water and soil
Human toxicity kg DCB eq/kWh Emission to air, water and soil and Health & safety
Marine water ecotoxicity kg DCB eq/kWh Emission to air, water and soil
Ozone layer depletion kg CFC-11 eq/kWh Emission to air, water and soil
Photochemical oxidants kg C2H4 eq/kWh Emission to air, water and soil
Terrestrial ecotoxicity kg DCB eq/kWh Emission to air, water and soil and Land use & quality
Economic Capital Costs PKR/kW Financial
O & M costs PKR/kWh Financial
Fuel Costs PKR/kWh Financial
Annualized Costs MPKR/Year Financial
Levelized Costs PKR/kWh Financial
Socio-Political Direct Employment Job-years/TWh Employment
Total Employment Job-years/TWh Employment
Imported fossil fuel avoided koe/kWh Energy security
Diversity of fuel supply mix Score (0–1) Energy security

assessed considering the environmental, economic and social aspects of electricity are outside the scope of this research and therefore not
sustainability in a life cycle perspective. In the fifth step, the most considered.
sustainable electricity generation options for Pakistan have been iden-
tified based on a comparative analysis of all operational alternatives by
giving equal weighting to all sustainability dimensions and respective 2.2. Sustainability indicators selection
indicators. The methodology framed for this study is shown in Fig. 1,
with detailed description of key steps in subsequent sections. In this study, indicators have been identified and selected based on
the globally accepted sustainability issues related to electricity gen-
eration and particularly in the context of Pakistan's power sector.
2.1. Goal and scope definition
Extensive literature has been consulted from which a total of 29 most
relevant taxonomies were reviewed to identify the highlighted sus-
The goal of this study is to assess the sustainability of electricity
tainability issues and indicators as shown in Table 1. After identifica-
sector of Pakistan in terms of economic, environmental and socio-po-
tion of 161 indicators, they were further categorized based on en-
litical impacts of various production sources currently available by
vironmental, techno-economic and socio-political issues. Based on the
applying a typical life cycle approach. The findings of this study will
available data and categorizations, 20 indicators for this research have
provide a knowledge horizon for policy makers and stakeholders to
been selected considering the global acceptance along with appro-
enhance the performance of electricity sector in the country.
priateness for local energy sector as shown in Table 2. The selection of
The functional unit is an essential element of life cycle assessment to
these indicators is totally based on the triple bottom line thinking of
measure the quantified performance of a product or service and most
sustainability that is only three major dimensions; economy, environ-
importantly it provides basis for comparison of results (Jönsson, 2000;
ment and society are the main focus of this study and indicators related
Mithraratne et al., 2007). In various studies synthesized in Table 1, the
to technology or operability are not considered (Atilgan and Azapagic,
commonly used functional unit for assessing the sustainability of power
2016; UNEP, 2012). The bottom line sustainability indicators cover all
generation is 1 KWh of electricity and same is used for this study.
minor sustainability issues such as technical, operability, etc.
As adopted by different studies including Santoyo-Castelazo and
Further, the assessment of environmental sustainability is carried
Azapagic (2014) and Atilgan and Azapagic (2016), this study covers
out using CML-IA (v.3.03) method that has 11 baseline indicators
different life cycle stages from resource extraction to plant operation or
(Goedkoop et al., 2016; Guinée, 2001). CML is the most commonly used
waste disposal depending on plant type as shown in Fig. 2. Further,
life cycle impact assessment (LCIA) method (ISO, 2000), having a
decommissioning of power plant, and transmission and distribution of
global database, transparency and lesser uncertainty of results as
compared to other available impact assessment methods such as TRACI
Table 3
Electricity mix of Pakistan as per NEPRA (2015). (Bare, 2002), ReCiPe (Goedkoop et al., 2009) and Eco-Indicator 99
(Goedkoop and Spriensma, 2000). Faculty licensed SimaPro
Generation Total Plants Capacity Annual Generation (2015) (PRé, 2016) software was used for carrying out LCA. Moreover, to ad-
Sources (NOs) (2015) dress the concerns of economy, a total of five indicators of capital,
(MW) (GWh) (%)
O & M, fuel, total annualized and levelized costs are considered. The
Hydropower assessment and estimation of these indicators is based on the metho-
Reservoir 07 5061 23,652 21.69 dology adopted from Santoyo-Castelazo and Azapagic (2014) and
Run of River (RoR) 17 2055 9327 8.55 Stamford and Azapagic (2011).
Gas 30 65,00 31,196 28.60
The third dimension of sustainability is assessed through social
Oil (FO + HSD) 17 10,164 38,690 35.48 welfare which is considered as one of the leading development goals for
Coal 01 150 102 0.09 any society. Assessment of social impacts and benefits is very difficult
Nuclear 03 787 5349 4.90 and is principally argued because the perception of social issues largely
Import – – 443 0.41
depends on societal and cultural norms, and ethical diversity (Sala
Wind 02 106 300 0.28
Total 77 24,823 109,059 et al., 2016). Because of this extensive boundary, literature reports a
large number of indicators to assess the socio-political dimension of

M.Z. Akber et al. Energy Policy 111 (2017) 111–126

Table 4
Summary of life cycle inventory data and assumptions.

Reservoirs RoR Wind Oil Natural gas Coal Nuclear Source

Life time of constructed facility (in years):

150 80 20 30 30 30 40 IEA et al. (2015), Wernet et al.
Ecoinvent-Plant Capacity (MW):
Average size: Average Offshore: 2 500 Combined cycle: 100 PWR: 650 Flury and Frischknecht (2012),
175.6 size: 8.6 400 Wernet et al. (2016)
Transport of fuel and resources (Distance in km):
Lorry: 250 Lorry: 250 Lorry: 300 Indigenous Pipeline = 1350 Indigenous Lorry: 25 Air: 2000 Through assumptions and
Train: 200 Country Ship Lorry Pipeline: 7500 Ship: 250 Google Maps (2017), NEPRA
Afghanistan 0 450 (2017), SR (2017)
Belize 17,200 750
Kuwait 2100 550
Malaysia 5000 500
Oman 885 1000
Saudi Arabia 4100 1200
Singapore 5400 500
UAE 1300 750
Fuel consumption:
N/A N/A N/A FO: 0.2133 kg/kWh 0.337 m3/kWh 1.482 kg/kWh 30,000 MWd/T MPNS (2016), NEPRA (2007),
HSD: 0.0192 kg/kWh NEPRA (2015), Wernet et al.
Net heating value (NHV):
N/A N/A N/A FO: 43 MJ/kg 33.53 MJ/m3 (12.79–21.30) MJ/ (500–650) GJ/kg JICA and HBP, 2015, MPNS
HSD: 46.5 MJ/kg kg (2016), World Nuclear
Association WNA (2017)
Fuel composition:
N/A N/A N/A Sulphur content (%) Natural gas sui Lakhra coal-lignite Slightly Enriched Azam (2008), JICA and HBP
Furnace oil (FO): 3.5 and other fields: (%): Uranium UO2: (2015), NEPRA (2017), Wernet
High speed diesel (HSD): (0.5–1) (mole-%): Ash (4.3–4.9) (%) et al. (2016), Yasin et al.
Methane Sulphur (1.2–14.8) (2.4–3) (2012),
(88.852) Moisture
Ethane (5.148) (9.7 −38.1)
Propane (0.257) Volatile matter
Butane and (18.3–38.6)
heavier (0.183) Carbon
Nitrogen (4.815) (9.8–38.2)
Carbon Dioxide
Thermal Efficiency:
N/A N/A N/A 28.22–43 (%) 24.84–37.5 (%) 17.74 (%) N/A NEPRA, (2014), NEPRA
(2015), NEPRA, (2017)
Direct emissions:
N/A N/A N/A (CO2, SO2, CO, CH4, N2O, NOx, NMVOC) N/A NEPRA, (2017), Wernet et al.

electricity generation. But, in this study, due to less developed metho- substituted with same amount of generation with natural gas due to its
dology and data availability constraints, only four indicators are con- very small contribution of 0.26% to the national grid. Whereas, sus-
sidered related to employment and energy security issues. tainability assessment of power generation from coal, despite its very
little input (0.19%) to national grid, is performed since national energy
2.3. Life cycle sustainability inventory policies and visions stress to increase production capacity of coal up to
7000 MW, constituting more than 15% of future electric-mix (PC,
For life cycle sustainability inventory of different electricity options 2014).
as well as the overall electric-mix of Pakistan, data have been collected The data related to thermal power plants operating on more than
from three main sources; Ecoinvent, documentation review and semi- one fuel sources are considered and analyzed with respect to primary
structured interviews as shown in Fig. 1. Due to availability of sufficient fuel. Further details on the assumptions and data collection with respect
and mature data, year 2015 is selected as the base year. Also, annual to major sustainability dimensions for different electricity generation
averages for 2015 are considered and any variation in the fuel mix and sources are provided in the following sections.
operational parameters that may occur during the year are ignored.
Further, life time of different sources of electricity generation is as- 2.3.1. Data collection and assumptions related to environmental
sumed from IEA et al. (2015) and Wernet et al. (2016). sustainability
Pakistan has seven main sources of electricity generation and total The inventory related to environmental sustainability for different
of 77 major power plants are operational in the country as shown in sources of electricity is summarized in Table 4. Ecoinvent 3.3 database
Table 3. All these sources are considered in this study except solar is the main source of background life cycle inventory (LCI) (Wernet
electricity generation for which data was not available for the base year et al., 2016). The data related to fuel consumptions and composition are
2015. The first ever large scale solar plant started contributing to the Pakistan specific and gathered from Azam (2008), JICA and HBP, 2015,
national grid in August 2015 and its data will be available from year MPNS (2016) and Yasin et al. (2012). Along with using Ecoinvent, data
2016 onwards. Therefore, the solar source of electricity generation can related to direct emissions from power plants is collected through
be considered for future studies. structured interviews and organizational records of generation com-
For simplification purpose, electricity generation with Bagasse is panies (NEPRA, 2017; Wernet et al., 2016). Distance values for

M.Z. Akber et al. Energy Policy 111 (2017) 111–126

Table 5
Employment factors in different life cycle stage of facilities source (Rutovitz et al., 2015; NEPRA, 2015).

Life Cycle Stage Unit of Measure Oil Gas Coal Reservoir RoR Nuclear Wind

Construction job-years/MW 1.97 3.12 26.9 17.8 26.3 28.3 17.1

O&M jobs/MW 0.63 0.91 2.63 0.48 0.43 1.44 0.48
Manufacturing job-years/MW 2.25 2.25 14.0 8.40 26.2 3.38 28.6
Extraction of Fuel jobs/PJ 15.1 15.1 6.10 N/A N/A 0.003 N/A

transporting primary fuel and resources are estimated from geo- plants have same O & M cost per KWh of generation as that of gas power
graphical maps and official documents sourced through Google Maps plants. Annual fuel costs for both nuclear and fossil fuel are sourced
(2017), NEPRA (2017) and PPIS (2014). through NEPRA (2015).
Where data specific to Pakistan was not available, Ecoinvent data- The capital cost in commissioning year is brought to base year
base was utilized using ‘economies of scale’ approach (Atilgan and (2015) using consumer price indices (CPI) of Pakistan as provided by
Azapagic, 2016; Coulson et al., 1993). For example, in case of con- World Bank for the period 1960 – 2015 with CPI (year 2010 = 100)
struction of hydropower plants, Ecoinvent data has been used and en- and for base year CPI (year 2015 = 145.30) (WB, 2016). The dis-
vironmental impact has been scaled using the relation given in Eq. (1), counting rate used for the calculation of the annualized capital cost is
where I1 and I2 represent the impacts, and C1 and C2 represent the ca- 10% which is commonly applied in electricity sector (IEA et al., 2015).
pacities of larger and smaller plants respectively.

0.6 2.3.3. Data collection and assumptions related to socio-political
I2 = I1 × ⎧ 2 ⎫ sustainability

⎩ C1 ⎬
⎭ (1)
Employment in the sectors of fuel extraction and manufacturing,
associated with power generation, is an estimate of the indirect em-
ployment whereas employment in the sectors of construction, installa-
2.3.2. Data collection and assumptions related to economic sustainability
tion and operation is governed as direct employment (Atilgan and
Economic data related to three key indicators of capital, O & M and
Azapagic, 2016; May and Brennan, 2006). Overall employment in life
fuel costs are gathered through secondary sources such as annual re-
time of a power plant is estimated using the installed capacity and
ports, online sources and financial statements of different organizations
employment factors for respective life cycle stage. Further, regional
and authorities such as Water and Power Development Authority
adjustment or regional job multiplier factor of year 2015 as provided by
(WAPDA), Private Power & Infrastructure Board (PPIB), National
Rutovitz et al. (2015) has been applied where relevant data was not
Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA), FFC Energy Limited and
available for Pakistan. The factor is calculated as given in Eq. (2), where
Ic represents installed capacity, Ef represents employment factor and Rm
Capital cost estimation for reservoir is based on 100% of projects
represents regional multiplier.
while in case of RoR power plants, total capital investment estimation is
based on 8 projects having a total capacity of 1713 MW or 83% of total Employment = Ic × Ef × Rm (2)
available capacity (WAPDA, 2015, 2017). The capital costs for thermal
and wind power projects are taken from standard national sources The estimation of employment factors is based on primary and
(NEPRA, 2015, 2017; PPIB, 2014). The estimation is based on a total of secondary data. For thermal power plants, jobs during operational stage
33 projects consisting of 100% coal, 90% gas, 64% oil and 100% wind are estimated as per NEPRA (2015) while for other life cycle stages,
projects installed in the country. There are three nuclear power plants employment factor has been estimated by multiplying regional job
in Pakistan and capital cost estimation is based on the two projects multiplier of year 2015 of OECD countries (Rutovitz et al., 2015). Jobs
sourced from IBP (2013) and WNA (2017). O & M costs for base year during the construction and operation for RoR hydropower plants are
2015 for thermal power projects are estimated from 32 projects, con- estimated through primary data collected for four power plants. Owing
tributing 57,312 GWh that is 80% of total thermal power generation to the lack of data availability, employment factor in other plants has
(NEPRA, 2015). O & M cost of hydropower projects running under been estimated by applying regional job multiplier for year 2015 of
WAPDA is PKR 11,240 million (US$ 110 million) (WAPDA, 2015). It is OECD, China and India, where relevant. For example, nuclear power
assumed that this cost is dispersed to reservoirs and RoR facilities ac- plants are manufactured in china (NEPRA, 2017) so manufacturing
cording to their respective weighted average generation and capacity. stage jobs for these plants are estimated by using regional job multiplier
O & M cost for wind power generation is considered from FFCEL (2017). for China (Rutovitz et al., 2015). The estimated employment factors for
Due to lack of data in case of nuclear source and its relatively low different selections are presented in Table 5.
contribution in the national grid, it is assumed that nuclear power Since non-renewable sources largely account for electric-mix, en-
ergy security has emerged as one of the major sustainable issues (MOF,
Table 6 2016) and evaluated based on two indicators. Firstly, imported fossil fuel
Fuel oil supply (2015) source (MPNS, 2016; PBS, 2016). potential avoided is the amount of fossil fuels that is to be imported and
combusted to provide an equivalent amount of electricity from sources
Fuel Oil (Tons)
which do not depend on imported fossil fuels. Secondly, diversity of fuel
Domestic 3,485,045 supply mix is used to assess the dependence on other countries for fuel
Imported requirements. Estimating methodology of these indicators is common to
Afghanistan 104 Atilgan and Azapagic (2016) and Stamford and Azapagic (2012). To
Belize 1110
Kuwait 3,637,676
estimate the imported fossil fuel potentially avoided, efficiency of the fossil
Malaysia 141,736 fuel fleet has been taken as the average of different oil power plants
Oman 84,909 (36%) as given in Table 4. Since Pakistan is self-sufficient in coal and
Saudi Arabia 408,913 gas generation as per base year reports, diversity of fuel supply mix has
Singapore 1656
been calculated only related to oil and nuclear fuels. Quantities of oil
United Arab Emirates 4,148,029
Total 11,909,178 domestically produced and imported during year 2015 from different
supplier countries are considered from the records of MPNS (2016) and

M.Z. Akber et al. Energy Policy 111 (2017) 111–126

Table 7
Results and findings of study.

Sr No. Indicators Names Unit of Measure Reservoir RoR Wind Oil Gas Coal Nuclear Electric mix

1 Abiotic depletion (elements) սg Sb eq/kWh 56.96 45.49 285.80 139.95 68.19 129.72 136.27 93.37
2 Abiotic depletion (fossils) MJ/kWh 0.09 0.08 0.13 13.36 14.09 25.73 0.13 8.86
3 Global warming (GWP) g CO2 eq/kWh 12.83 8.78 11.38 1502.86 531.00 790.11 12.51 692.78
4 Ozone layer depletion (ODP) սg CFC-11 eq/kWh 1.01 0.77 0.90 161.66 73.14 3.40 1.22 78.94
5 Human toxicity g DCB eq/kWh 21.72 15.25 46.59 292.30 83.49 947.91 39.16 137.09
6 Fresh water ecotoxicity. g DCB eq/kWh 26.77 16.00 49.96 39.61 30.66 1634.78 25.13 33.03
7 Marine water ecotoxicity kg DCB eq/kWh 16.38 12.02 34.65 130.57 108.21 4023.88 29.68 87.53
8 Terrestrial ecotoxicity g DCB eq/kWh 0.06 0.05 0.11 1.01 0.13 2.82 0.07 0.42
9 Photochemical oxidation mg C2H4 eq/kWh 2.79 2.42 4.30 459.14 136.87 60.20 4.68 203.97
10 Acidification mg SO2 eq/kWh 41.73 35.46 65.54 12,456.88 2525.90 3207.02 94.54 5182.71
11 Eutrophication mg PO4 eq/kWh 14.81 13.90 28.58 847.18 105.11 11,337.25 29.46 348.56
1 Capital costs PKR/kW 134,443 193,781 279,485 151,619 149,690 200,110 189,063 152,846
2 O & M costs PKR/kWh 0.350 0.357 1.835 0.390 0.239 0.195 0.239 0.330
3 Fuel costs PKR/kWh – – – 12.89 4.85 4.50 1.55 6.04
4 Total Annualized Costs MPKR/year 76,363 43,169 3814 618,278 320,006 3550 24,477 1,089,657
5 Levelized cost PKR/kWh 3.23 4.63 12.71 15.98 10.26 34.80 4.58 10.03
1 Direct Employment job-years/TWh 150 155 411 172 341 1995 281 222
2 Total Employment job-years/TWh 173 227 815 320 512 2635 446 345
3 Imported fossil fuel avoided koe/kWh 0.166 0.166 0.166 – 0.166 0.166 0.166 0.158
4 Diversity of fuel supply mix: Score (0–1) 1 1 1 0.7 1 1 0 or 1 0.84–0.89

PBS (2016) as shown in Table 6. significance has been widely reported in the literature when performing
sustainability analysis of mega infrastructure projects (Atilgan and
2.4. Determination of sustainability score Azapagic, 2016; May and Brennan, 2006). The major reason behind
such simplification is multifaceted nature of these projects in terms of
Sustainability score for each option is measured with the help of their stakeholders, impacts, business models, preferences and tech-
weighted aggregated function adopted from Dı́az-Balteiro and Romero nology (Atilgan and Azapagic, 2017; Zhou et al., 2006). However,
(2004) as given in Eq. (3), where Ss represents overall sustainability under simpler decision scenarios, such as smaller structures of re-
score of each option (0−1), wi is the considered weight of indicator or sidential buildings, relative weights for indicators (Ahmad and
dimension i of sustainability and vi is normalized value or performance Thaheem, 2017), and sustainability systems and techniques (Ahmad
of an option on indicator or dimension i of sustainability. et al., 2016) have been reported.
Ss = ∑ wi vi
i=1 (3) 3. Results and discussions
This model allows to objectively measure the impact of each in-
dicator on its respective dimension, which in turn contributes to the This section presents results on sustainability assessment of electric-
overall sustainability score. For the sake of impartiality as well as mix of Pakistan and comparison of seven options for power generation
convenience, equal weighting has been given to each sustainability in a life cycle perspective. Full results for each operational electricity
dimension while estimating the overall score. Also, equal importance to generation source and the indicators are provided in Table 7. Firstly,
each constituent indicator has been given to obtain an unbiased solu- environmental sustainability is discussed followed by the economic and
tion and avoid selection preference in results when measuring a parti- socio-political sustainability.
cular dimension. It is pertinent to mention that usage of equal

Fig. 3. Environmental impact comparison per KWh.

M.Z. Akber et al. Energy Policy 111 (2017) 111–126

Fig. 4. Comparison of environmental impacts of various countries [Expressed per KWh] (Atilgan and Azapagic, 2016; Stamford and Azapagic, 2012; Wernet et al., 2016).

3.1. Environmental sustainability assessment been done with a total of 11 other countries including neighboring,
developing as well as developed countries in Fig. 4. As there is a high
Environmental sustainability of electricity sector of Pakistan has pressure on stakeholders regarding GWP (Iqbal et al., 2010), this in-
been assessed using LCA approach. Environmental impact comparison dicator under a distinct issue named climate change is discussed sepa-
of different sources per unit of electricity generation is shown in Fig. 3. rately followed by resource depletion and other environmental impacts.
The eleven indicators that are assessed can be associated with different Other detailed results are provided in Table 7.
environmental issues highlighted in Table 1.
With purpose to get a better picture and strong policy implications,
3.1.1. Climate change
the comparison of environmental impact of electric-mix of Pakistan has
With respect to climate change, hydropower is the most sustainable

Fig. 5. GWP for electric-mix of Pakistan (SimaPro

M.Z. Akber et al. Energy Policy 111 (2017) 111–126

element resources respectively. Similar to GWP, hydropower is the best

option in this case with use of 45.49 ug Sb eq/KWh and 56.96 ug Sb eq/
KWh for RoR and reservoir options respectively. In context, comparing
with other countries, as shown in Fig. 4, consumption of element re-
sources is lowest for electric-mixes with high percentage of hydro-
power, gas or coal plants such as Turkey (25 ug Sb eq/KWh), Brazil (49
ug Sb eq/KWh), Canada (54 ug Sb eq/KWh), UK (58 ug Sb eq/KWh),
China (69 ug Sb eq/KWh) and Pakistan (93 ug Sb eq/KWh). On the
other hand, countries that have higher share of renewable (wind and
solar) and nuclear power plants like Denmark (559 ug Sb eq/KWh),
Switzerland (217 ug Sb eq/KWh), USA (216 ug Sb eq/KWh) and France
(173 ug Sb eq/KWh) show high ADP of elements (Atilgan and Azapagic,
2016; Stamford and Azapagic, 2012; WB, 2017; Wernet et al., 2016).
ADP fossils is highest for thermal power plants with 13.36, 14.09
and 25.73 MJ/KWh for oil, gas and coal respectively. Due to very low
efficiency of 17.4% of coal plants, depletion of coal is the highest for
Pakistan as compared to UK and Turkey where a consumption of
15.1 MJ/KWh is reported. Since fossils extraction is the single largest
contributor to this impact, the ADP fossils in case of renewable and
nuclear electricity generation sum up to only 0.43 MJ/KWh. Similar to
Pakistan, it is obvious that countries with high reliance on thermal
Fig. 6. Percentage share of different sources to estimated total annualized cost (PKR 1090 sources like India (82%), Turkey (79%), China (75%), USA (68%) and
billion) of electric mix in year 2015. UK (61%) consume high fossil resources.

option since both RoR and reservoir have the lowest GWP of 8.78 and
12.83 g CO2-eq/KWh respectively. Due to large direct emissions during 3.1.3. Other environmental impacts
plant operation, oil power plants are the worst with emission of Life cycle impact of other eight environmental indicators, in con-
1502.86 g CO2-eq/KWh. Despite low range transportation, coal is the sequence of emissions to air, water and soil, is discussed in this section
second worst option with 790.11 g CO2-eq/KWh due to lower effi- with detailed results in Table 7. It is clear from these findings that
ciency. Overall GWP of electricity production in Pakistan is 692.78 g hydropower, wind and nuclear are the most sustainable options in these
CO2-eq/KWh. Putting this figure into perspective of total national impact categories.
production, 75.25 Mt CO2-eq was emitted in year 2015 with 77.3% and In terms of ozone layer depletion potential (ODP), oil and gas are
22% contribution from oil and gas power plants as simulated by the least environmentally sustainable options with 161.66 and 73.14 ug
SimaPro and shown in Fig. 5. This impact is relatively low as compared CFC-11 eq/KWh respectively. In case of oil, about 90% of ODP is due to
to neighboring countries of India (1238 g CO2-eq/KWh) and China emissions of halon products during oil production and for gas, main
(1109 g CO2-eq/KWh) where coal is a far larger source of electricity contribution is from transportation of resources. A total of 7.31 ug CFC-
production with total contribution of over 70%. Similarly, the countries 11 eq/KWh of ODP is made up of remaining options. Similarly, oil and
that have large contribution of thermal generation such as USA (630 g gas are also the lowest sustainable options for photochemical oxidation
CO2-eq), Turkey (523 g CO2-eq) and UK (490 g CO2-eq) show the potential with impacts estimated at 459.14 and 136.87 mg C2H4
highest GWP per unit (KWh) generation of electricity (WB, 2017). eq/KWh respectively.
Further, human toxicity potential, which is largely considered for
health and safety issues, is assessed at 947.91 g DCB eq/KWh due to
3.1.2. Resource consumption emissions of heavy metals to air, water and soil during coal mining.
For this research, resource consumption has been studied with re- This is about 3, 11, 20 and 62 times the impact caused by oil, gas, wind
spect to two most distinct indicators as abiotic resource depletion po- and RoR respectively. In fresh and marine water aquatic ecotoxicity
tential (ADP) for elements and fossils fuels. The findings show that in potentials, coal is the worst sustainable option with impacts of 1634.78
case of ADP elements, wind consumes higher resources as 285.80 սg Sb and 4023.88 g kg DCB eq/KWh respectively. These toxicity potentials
eq/KWh, mainly due to an extensive use of metals and metalloids in are due to large discharge of heavy metals to water. Other worse op-
plant construction. Oil and nuclear are the second and third most im- tions are oil, gas and wind respectively.
pactful options consuming 139.95 and 136.27 ug Sb eq/KWh of The indicator of terrestrial ecotoxicity potential shows the same

Fig. 7. Contribution of different costs to the levelized costs for

various electricity generation sources.

M.Z. Akber et al. Energy Policy 111 (2017) 111–126

behavior as those of fresh and marine water aquatic ecotoxicity po- Estimated annual cost of electricity production during 2015 was PKR
tentials. Here too coal is the least sustainable option followed by oil and 1090 billion (US$ 10.7 billion)/year. Percentage share of different
gas with impacts of 2.82, 1.01 and 0.13 g DCB eq/KWh respectively. sources in this annual cost of electricity is shown in Fig. 6.
RoR and reservoir with potentials of 0.05 and 0.06 g DCB eq/KWh are Annual costs of oil fire power plants are highest due to their largest
the best options. contribution to generation (35.5%) and highest fuel costs. Gas power
Because of high Sulphur content of up to 3.5%, as shown in Table 4, plants account for 30% of annual costs of total electricity production.
oil is the worst option in case of acidification potential with a value of Share of hydropower to annual cost is only 11% even though its con-
12,456.88 mg SO2 eq/KWh. Coal and gas are at second and third po- tribution toward national production is 30% as shown in Fig. 6. This
sitions with impacts of 3207.02 and 2525.90 mg SO2 eq/KWh. With a difference is due to zero fuel and lower O & M costs.
value of 11,337.25 mg PO4 eq/KWh, generation with coal is worse for
eutrophication potential. Emission of phosphates during coal mining 3.2.3. Levelized cost
contributes for 90% of this impact during that life cycle stage. With an To view the cost of each option in LCC perspective, levelized cost of
impact of 847.18 mg PO4 eq/KWh, oil is the second least sustainable electricity generation has been estimated in base year 2015 using the
option for eutrophication. Like other indicators of emissions to air, formula given in Eq. (4), where LC represents levelized cost of elec-
water and soil issue, hydropower is the most sustainable options for tricity generation (PKR/KWh), ACt is the total annual cost of electricity
both acidification and eutrophication potentials. generation (MPKR/year) and Ga is the annual electricity generation
Comparing the impacts of electric-mixes of different countries, it is (GWh/Year).
difficult to project a specific pattern due to different plant technologies, ACt
quality of fuel and other factors. However, countries that depend mostly LC =
Ga (4)
on thermal power such as India, China, USA, Turkey and UK show
higher impacts for human, terrestrial, and fresh and marine water Based on the levelized cost of each option and their contribution to
ecotoxicity potentials. Further, the highest impacts of acidification and the national grid, overall unit cost of electric-mix is estimated as PKR
eutrophication potentials for India, China and USA can be associated 10.03/KWh (US$ 98.5/MWh). For context, cost of tariff per unit (KWh)
with highest contribution of coal as a source of electricity production. electricity, as per NEPRA and Government of Pakistan (GOP), varies
between PKR 4 and 19 depending on the consumption level and con-
3.2. Economic sustainability assessment sumer type such as residential or commercial (NEPRA, 2015).
Contribution of different costs to the levelized cost for different
As discussed earlier, five indicators are estimated to assess economic electricity generation sources is presented in Fig. 7. The results high-
aspect of power generation in Pakistan. Overall results show that gen- light that electricity from reservoir is the most economic and low-priced
eration with hydropower plants is the most economic while coal incurs (PKR 3.23/KWh), followed by RoR (PKR 4.63/KWh) and nuclear (PKR
the largest cost due to very low efficiency and operability of current 4.58/KWh). Due to very low operability and efficiency (17.74%) of
working plants. Nuclear is at the third place followed by gas, wind and currently operational coal power plants, the country is bearing highest
oil. A more detailed discussion of these results is given in following cost for unit electricity generation with coal as PKR 34.79. Due to
sections for different options and electricity mixes. The costs are men- highest fuel cost, generation with oil is second costly option (PKR
tioned in local currency (PKR) as well as US$ under the exchange rate 15.98/KWh) for current electric-mix of Pakistan.
for base year. A comparison of unit cost of electricity generation in other devel-
oped and under developing countries is shown in Fig. 8 based on similar
studies (Atilgan and Azapagic, 2016; Gujba et al., 2010; Santoyo-
3.2.1. Capital cost
Castelazo and Azapagic, 2014; Stamford and Azapagic, 2012). The
Pakistan's electric-mix has a capital cost of PKR 152,846 (US$
difference in the costs is mainly due to the differing electric-mixes and
1502)/KW. Wind power has the highest cost for plant construction and
plant technologies in these countries. Fig. 8 shows that Pakistan has the
installation which is PKR 279,485 (US$ 2746)/KW followed by coal
least levelized cost of electricity generation. It is because Pakistan's
power plant, PKR 200,110 (US$ 1966)/KW (NEPRA, 2015, 2017). The
electricity mix has a large share (30%) of low cost hydropower elec-
capital costs are lowest in case of reservoir and gas power plants, PKR
tricity, whereas UK (2%), Turkey (24.6%), Mexico (13.5%) and Nigeria
134,443 (US$ 1321)/KW and PKR 149,690 (US$ 1471)/KW respec-
(0%) have lesser share of hydropower in their electricity mixes.
tively. Based on these data, the total capital cost for 24,823 MW in-
stalled capacity, for year 2015, is PKR 3.794 trillion (US$ 37.3 billion)
having shares of 67% for thermal, 28% for hydropower, 4% for nuclear 3.3. Socio-political sustainability assessment
and 1% for wind facilities.
Four most relevant social indicators have been selected to assess
social sustainability of power production in Pakistan. Results reveal
3.2.2. Total annualized cost
that life cycle employment is highest for coal and wind power plants
Total annualized cost is calculated by adding annualized capital,
while lowest in case of reservoir and RoR. The detailed evaluation of
O & M and fuel costs for year 2015 as explained in Section 2.3.2.
these indicators is given in following sections.

3.3.1. Employment
In this analysis, direct employment refers to the jobs during con-
struction and operation stages of power plants without including jobs
during decommissioning of plants (May and Brennan, 2006). Table 5
reports that direct employment is highest in case of coal power plant
with 1995 jobs-years/TWh. Though the level of employment is high, it
is not necessarily encouraging since these plants operate at very low
efficiency (17.74%) as compared to other electricity generation sources
(NEPRA, 2015). The second highest direct employment is for wind (411
jobs-years/TWh) followed by gas power plants (341 jobs-years/TWh).
Fig. 8. Levelized cost of electricity generation in different countries (US$/MWh in year Hydropower offers the least direct employment with 150 jobs-years/
TWh and 155 jobs-Years/TWh for reservoir and RoR respectively. The

M.Z. Akber et al. Energy Policy 111 (2017) 111–126

with fuel oil and nuclear fuels only. It is estimated that electricity
sources which do not depend on the imported fossil fuels, such as coal,
gas, nuclear and renewable, successfully avoid 0.158 Koe per unit of
electricity generation (KWh). In other words, on annual basis, these
electricity sources substitute the import of fossil fuel equivalent to
17.27 Mtoe. Due to difference in efficiency of power plants and electric-
mix, fossil fuel avoided in UK and Turkey is 0.0506 Koe/KWh and
0.072 Koe/KWh respectively (Atilgan and Azapagic, 2016; Stamford
and Azapagic, 2012).
The second indicator, diversity of fuel supply, has been computed
based on similar formula as adopted by Stamford and Azapagic (2012)
and Atilgan and Azapagic (2016) who use Simpson's Diversity Index
Fig. 9. Sustainability score based on equal weight to all sustainability dimensions. (Simpson, 1949). Performance of this indicator relies on two major
aspects of indigenous fuel production and dependence on different
supplier countries. Thus, it can be improved by generating more fuel
low employment associated with hydropower plants is due to their
indigenously and importing from more countries or demoting depen-
higher capacity factor with an average of 86% (NEPRA, 2015). The
dence on one or two major suppliers (Stamford and Azapagic, 2012).
overall direct employment associated with electricity sector of Pakistan
The results show that score of oil supply is 0.7, the index is high due to
is 222 jobs-years/TWh providing a total of 24,112 jobs in year 2015
non-reliance on one or two suppliers as shown in Table 6. In case of
with a share of 44% by gas, 28% by oil and 15% by reservoir power
supply for nuclear source of electricity, data for fuel import is not
available; however, the impact of nuclear fuel import on overall fuel
Indirect employment is associated with jobs during extraction of
supply index is very low due to low contribution to the national grid. In
fuel and manufacturing of power plants (Atilgan and Azapagic, 2016;
case if all nuclear fuel is produced indigenously, that is if score is 1,
Gujba et al., 2010; Santoyo-Castelazo and Azapagic, 2014; Stamford
then the value of overall index will be 0.89. On the contrary, if worse
and Azapagic, 2012) and is calculated using the employment factors
condition is assumed, that is 0 score for nuclear fuel supply, then the
presented in Table 5. Total employment is the sum of direct and indirect
overall index drops to 0.85. This shows a very low impact of nuclear
employments. The trend of results for total employment is same as that
fuel supply. By comparison, the total diversity index for UK and Turkey
of direct employment. In total employment, the largest contribution is
is 0.82 and 0.72 respectively (Atilgan and Azapagic, 2016; Stamford
of coal as 2635 jobs-years/TWh. With 815 and 512 jobs-year/TWh,
and Azapagic, 2012).
wind and gas power plants are second and third sustainable options
respectively in terms of employment while RoR and reservoir plants
have the lowest total employments with 227 and 173 jobs-year/TWh 3.4. Sustainability scores
respectively. The overall electric-mix of Pakistan provides a total em-
ployment of 345 jobs-years/TWh, that was a total of 37,473 jobs in year To highlight the most sustainable options, sustainability scores have
2015. been evaluated for each electricity generation source and results are
Comparing the findings of this study with other two studies that shown in Fig. 9. Using Eq. (3), equal weighting has been given to each
follow the same methodology to conclude total employment of electric- sustainability dimension. Since each dimension has been covered with
mix, it is found that high employment associated with power generation the help of various indicators, to obtain effective solution and avoid
of Pakistan as compared to total employment of Turkey (270 jobs- selection bias in results, equal importance to each constituent indicator
years/TWh) and UK (123 jobs-years/TWh) is due to low labor pro- has been given.
ductivity and GDP of the country (Atilgan and Azapagic, 2016; It has been found that hydropower is the best sustainable option for
Stamford and Azapagic, 2012). Pakistan with sustainability score of 0.82 and 0.78 for reservoir and
RoR respectively. It is mainly due to major economic and social con-
3.3.2. Energy security tributions attributed to this source of electricity generation. Nuclear has
Energy security is an important issue for power sector of Pakistan little difference and stands as the third most sustainable option with a
(MOF, 2016). Since generation with gas and coal is based on indigenous score of 0.70. Oil is the least sustainable option with a score of 0.36.
supply of fuel, this issue has been evaluated based on the generation The second least sustainable option is coal with substantial difference

Table 8
Proposed electricity mixes.

EM - Currenta EM-2020 EM-2025 EM-2030 EM-2035 EM-2040

Forecasted Future Electricity Demand 26,437 32,000 39,000 47,500 58,000 70,000
Reservoir 5061 5061 7061 9561 15,561 22,061
20.39% 15.82% 18.11% 20.13% 26.83% 31.52%
RoR 2055 3155 5155 7155 9155 11,655
8.28% 9.86% 13.22% 15.06% 15.78% 16.65%
Wind 106 1683 2683 3683 4183 4683
0.43% 5.26% 6.88% 7.75% 7.21% 6.69%
Oil 10164 10164 10,164 10,164 10,164 10,164
40.95% 31.76% 26.06% 21.40% 17.52% 14.52%
Gas 6500 8500 10,000 11,500 12,000 12,500
26.19% 26.56% 25.64% 24.21% 20.69% 17.86%
Coal 150 2650 2650 2650 2150 1650
0.60% 8.28% 6.79% 5.58% 3.71% 2.36%
Nuclear 787 787 1287 2787 4787 7287
3.17% 2.46% 3.30% 5.87% 8.25% 10.41%

As per the actual generation in base year 2015.

M.Z. Akber et al. Energy Policy 111 (2017) 111–126

the future forecasted electricity demand of the country but also the
power projects currently under construction due to their future con-
tribution in energy mix. The implementation framework is based on the
following guidelines.

• Recent energy policy focuses on fulfilling the shortfall while attuned

to safeguarding the environment. A wider view on environmental,
economic and social impacts covering life cycle of plants is needed
to avoid solving one issue at the expense of another.
• Electricity production with oil should be gradually reduced to cover
the load of energy security and high cost of electricity per unit
generation. But this should be done keeping in view the demand and
Fig. 10. Sustainability scores of proposed future electricity mixes.
supply, and political and social emphasis of independent power
producers (IPPs).
• Pakistan has a significant potential of hydropower production with
respect to both small and large power plants. Current policies aim to
tap this source and many projects are under construction or plan-
ning. This could be a plus point related to environmental and eco-
nomic aspects but social aspects like public acceptance, relocations,
wild life issues, quality of life, land transformations and water
supply should be adequately and properly addressed.
• Future policy goals show an interest to expand the production ca-
pacity with coal (up to 15%) (PC, 2014). This expansion must
consider the environmental impacts due to emissions and energy
security risk due to fuel supply. Technological advancements in
plants are vital since low efficiency severely impacts the economy
and environment. For example, if current efficiency of plants is
improved from 17.4% to 40%, the GWP and cost will go down up to
3 times.
• By improving the issues related to health and safety, and nuclear
proliferation, the positive impacts on environmental and economic
sustainability will drive an increase in nuclear based production.

Fig. 11. Source-wise sustainability scores of proposed future electricity mixes.

• Increment in production with renewable (wind and solar) sources
should be done with proper tradeoffs between cost, element re-
source depletion and other environmental issues.
from oil with a score of 0.62.
Comparing individual sustainability dimensions, hydropower and Based on these guidelines, the following framework will lead the
nuclear are highly economically sustainable. And as obvious, renewable decision makers in prioritizing the prospective projects and selecting
sources of hydropower and wind are most environmentally sustainable the cleaner ones, thus paving way towards sustainable development
options. Due to higher global warming, and human, terrestrial, and goals. This framework is based on the four main criteria:
fresh and marine water ecotoxicity potentials, coal power is the least
environmentally sustainable source. Due to energy security issue, oil i. meeting the future electricity demands;
has least score of 0.04 in social sustainability. ii. signifying the initial capital cost and operation & maintenance costs;
iii. enhancing the social and environmental sustainability;
iv. increasing the overall sustainability of future electricity mixes.
4. Policy guidelines and implementation framework
As per NTDC (2014), the future electricity demand is synthesized at
In light of Pakistan's currently in vogue energy policies and sus- the annual rate of approximately 2.2%, as shown in Table 8. Using this
tainability goals, and the findings of current study, policy guidelines demand, appropriate electricity mixes are proposed for years 2020 (EM-
and implementation framework are proposed which not only consider 2020), 2025 (EM-2025), 2035 (EM-2035) and 2040 (EM-2040).

Fig. 12. Electricity generation sources in proposed future elec-

tricity mixes.

M.Z. Akber et al. Energy Policy 111 (2017) 111–126

Further, while particularly proposing EM-2020, the currently under thermal and hydropower. More than 80% of environmental impacts of
construction projects with subsequent completion date before the year energy sector are caused by thermal power plants with an annual GWP
2020 are considered. As presented in Table 8, other electricity mixes are of 75.25 Mt CO2-eq. The assessment of social sustainability signifies
proposed using the criteria explained above and adopting the approach that around 37,473 jobs were provided by this sector during year 2015.
of decreasing the share of electricity sources with lesser sustainability The social sustainability is highly affected by energy security because of
scores in each subsequent electricity mix. fuel oil import with the diversity of fuel supply index equal to 0.70.
The sustainability scores for each proposed electricity mix is then Further, in year 2015, a total of 17.3 Mtoe was avoided by renewables
calculated through weighted averages of percentage share of each and generation options that do not depend on imported fossil fuels.
electricity generation source and its corresponding sustainability score Comparing the individual sources of electricity generation with re-
shown in Fig. 9. Using this approach, the sustainability score for each spect to considered sustainability indicators, hydropower is the most
electric mix is shown in Fig. 10. The score for current electric mix (EM- preferred source due to the lowest economic and environmental im-
Current) is 0.59, while for proposed electric mixes for years 2020, 2025, pacts and has been given due importance in the energy mixes proposed
2030, 2035 and 2040 are 0.61, 0.64, 0.66, 0.68, 0.70, respectively. in policy implementation framework despite its least life cycle em-
Based on the proposed cleaner mix for each successive period, a higher ployment potential. It is further revealed that wind is the worst option
sustainability score is achieved. The highest growth rate of over 4% is for capital investment in Pakistan, unlike Turkey where it has an ac-
witnessed between EM-2020 and EM-2025 due to incorporation of ceptable initial cost (Atilgan and Azapagic, 2016; Stamford and
hydel power into the national grid based on the completion of currently Azapagic, 2012). Irrespective of coal and gas, importing of fuel makes
under construction reservoir and RoR projects of Dasu dam (Stage-1, the oil a worst option for energy security. Overall in six environmental
expected completion year 2022), Karot hydropower project (expected indicators, coal is the worst option for electricity generation and has
completion year 2021), Kohala hydropower project (expected comple- been reduced in subsequent energy mixes. Even a relatively higher
tion 2022), Suki Kinari hydropower project (expected completion year employment potential cannot save coal due to lower efficiency which
2022), etc. Following such sustainable policy intervention, an overall also results into higher cost per unit. Gas power plants have a negative
growth of over 15% is observed within next 25 years, offering a max- relationship with GWP and ozone layer depletion, however their capital
imum sustainability score of 70% by year 2040. investment is relatively attractive and therefore a marginal increment
The source-wise comparison of all the sustainably scores of pro- in generation through this source has been proposed. Like hydropower,
posed future mixes is presented in Fig. 11. It is evident that in each nuclear imposes the least impact on economic and environmental
subsequent energy mix, more sustainable sources of electricity are in- concerns, and thus has been positively included in the future energy
creasing, with specific focus on hydropower due to its enormous po- mixes. These results are likely to lead the stakeholders to opt for the
tential of approximately 41,722 MW (NEPRA, 2004). Similarly, wind is most sustainable option in the light of their viewpoint and associated
set to grow moderately from 0.43% to 6.69% during the 25-year period importance of different sustainability dimensions.
while coal, oil and gas are continuously decreasing. Specifically, the This study is based on the sustainability assessment of electricity
EM-Current, which offers least sustainability score, uses maximum mix in Pakistan for the base year 2015 and has considered different
source of thermal electricity production at over 67% with only 29% electricity generation sources currently operational. The solar source
contribution of hydel electricity. On the contrary, the last energy mix has not been incorporated due to limited projects and available data.
for year 2040 has around 55% contribution of renewables and only Therefore, the same has not been included in the proposed electricity
34.7% of thermal energy. mixes despite a higher insolation potential. Data and scope limitations,
Further, the variation in each source in absolute numbers is shown and constraints may impose uncertainty in results and further im-
in Fig. 12 where a massive proposed growth in reservoir and RoR can be provements can be brought using more transparent, complete and re-
seen from a combined generation of 7116 MW (EM-Current) to gion-specific data on environmental and social aspects. Also, since
33,716 MW (EM-2040). Though decreasing in electricity mix over 25- transmission and distribution of electricity were outside the scope of
year period, all thermal sources of electricity production are dealt dif- this research, future studies can benefit from including these critical
ferently. In doing so, the oil based generation is kept constant in ab- network operations to obtain holistic assessment. Another limitation of
solute terms to manage the energy security risk by diversifying the this research is its equal treatment of sustainability dimensions and
configuration, gas powered electricity production is moderately en- indicators in assessing overall sustainability score. Due to resource
hanced from 6500 MW (EM-Current) to 12,500 MW (EM-2040) due to constraints, authors resorted to using equal weights but future studies
significantly higher sustainability score of 0.7 and coal is overall de- may engage the key stakeholders involved in policy- and decision-
creased. Though a quick upsurge from 150 MW (EM-Current) to making to attain a sophisticated decision support system.
2650 MW (EM-2020) in coal is observed since it is a short-term solution
to country's energy crisis and being focused in current energy policy in Acknowledgements
vogue, a decrease is evidently proposed starting from year 2030 due to
its least environmental sustainability score of 0.11. The contributions of officials from WAPDA, NEPRA, Planning
Commission, Pakistan Meteorological Department and Pakistan
5. Conclusions Environmental Protection Agency (Pak-EPA) for provision of data, of-
ficial reports and interviews are thankfully acknowledged. Also, the
Sustainable development is vital for the evolution of generations, feedback given by the esteemed editor and reviewers is acknowledge,
and the energy sector, having a major contribution to it, should be ef- without which a significant improvement would not have been pos-
fectively assessed and managed to accomplish the fruits of sustainable sible.
electricity production. It is the need of hour for developing countries
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Overcoming electricity crisis in Pakistan: a review of sustainable electricity options.


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