Solar technology on the rise in Pakistan

Rise in sale of solar panels

President Zardari recently asked the concerned bodies to shift Presidency to solar power on the pattern of Planning Commission and Pakistan Engineering Council. – File photo

While the huge hydro-power potential of the country still remains unutilised, quite a few people hit by loadshedding and power tariff hikes in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are turning towards solar energy.

Facilitated by high intensity sun-rays in the tribal belt, the sales of solar panels are going up. Wakeel Ahmad, a Peshawar-based dealer of solar panel, said people are turning to this technology as load-shedding/cost of power and the rising expenses on generators have left them with no option but to adopt solar technology. Nazir Ahmad, a dealer of solar energy equipment in Swabi, claimed that scores of solar energy panels are being sold in the area.

“Solar lamps have been installed near Peshawar bus stand with plans to install them on roads and streets in the city soon. Individuals are also coming up in great numbers to buy these panels,” he said.

“Solar panel is sold at Rs250 per watt with 20 years warranty. A normal household with daily consumption of 1000 watt would thus have to spend Rs250,000. The family could also buy a solar panel for Rs40,000 to charge the electricity-based uninterrupted power supply systems to use the power later in their homes,” he added.

A Wapda official in Dir said people in this difficult terrain have installed imported solar panels which have revolutionised their lives as well as agriculture. Over a million tube-wells in the country are using 1000-1500MW of power, straining the weak national grid, consuming over billions of rupees in power subsidy.

According to Ahmad, a solar tube-well with 20 years warranty could be installed by one-time investment of Rs0.9mn which can pump water non-stop from sunrise to sunset for irrigation. Solar pumps could fulfill the daily water requirements of small to medium-size fish farms and communities as well. These could pump water from a depth of up to 1000 feet, according to a report.

Pakistan receives high level of solar radiation throughout the year- around 1000 watts per square meter. Mr Arif Allauddin, chief executive officer of AEDB, said recently that 2.9mn MW could be produced through tapping solar energy in the country.

But Pakistan has failed to utilise solar power though it has opted to invest heavily in the oil-run power plants. The AEDB has signed several MoUs on installation of solar energy panels with different agencies. It plans widespread use of off-grid solar technologies in Pakistan through public and private sector cooperation. Setting up of local solar PV manufacturing facilities is also included in its programme.

However, the high installation cost of the system, lack of awareness among people, and banks’ reluctance to finance the system were hindering the spread of the technology.

Failure to establish local solar energy manufacturing units in the country has also made the system comparatively costlier.

Several government companies like AEDB, Pakistan Council for Renewable Technologies etc, dealing with the sector, and the lengthy process of approval of solar energy projects inhibit investors from adopting this system.

The technology may be costly and unaffordable for one person, but is considered within reach when combined investment is made by a few families or the process is supported by the government and international bodies.

But the fact that solar energy system can be installed with one-time investment and there is no need of maintenance or operating expenses.

“While the World Bank and Asian Development Bank are allocating funds for solar technologies, the local banks do not come forward to support the sector. The AEDB will keep on creating high hopes but actually it is doing nothing,” said an expert.

A project, launched by the UN environment programme in 2003 in the Indian State of Karnataka, facilitated over 18,000 loans for solar panels over three years. UNEP recruited two popular banks to take part in the project as part of their ‘priority sector lending’ obligation and it subsidised the loans to help decrease the interest rate. The UNEP plans to initiate similar projects in other countries but not in Pakistan.

The government needs to provide tax holidays and grants to selected villages, schools, mosques and offices, some resource risk coverage, competitive tariff for solar energy and guaranteed purchase agreements from producers.

President Zardari recently asked the concerned bodies to shift Presidency to solar power on the pattern of Planning Commission and Pakistan Engineering Counci. He also advised that one town be converted to solar energy each year; all new development schemes should have solar street lights and solar cookers. Use of water heaters and water pumps should be encouraged, he said.

According to a report in the Guardian recently, Greece may allow Germany to develop about 20,000 hectares of solar power parks for exporting renewable energy to Germany.

…………….

Original text of the article

Utilising the solar energy

By Tahir Ali

In the wake of apparent government’s failure to utilise the huge hydro power potential and hit worst by the ever increasing load-shedding and power tariff, quite a few people in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are turning towards solar energy and the sales of solar panels in the province is on the rise.

Particularly, the tribal belt, where there is less pollution and so high intensity sun-rays produce powerful energy, the sales are going up enormously.

Wakeel Ahmad, a Peshawar based dealer of solar technology, said people are turning to solar technology as load-shedding/costliness of power and the rising maintenance and operation expenditures of generators has left them with no other option. Nazir Ahmad, a Swabi based dealer, said hundreds of solar energy systems are sold in the area.

“Solar lamps have been installed near Peshawar bus stand and these are likely to be installed on streets and roads in the city very soon. Individuals are also coming in great numbers,” he said.

“Solar technology is sold in watts at Rs250 per watt with 20 years warranty. A normal household with daily consumption of 1000watt would thus have to spend Rs250,000. The family could also buy a solar panel only at Rs40, 000 to charge its electricity based un-interrupted power supply systems to use the power later in their homes,” he added.

A Wapda official, based in Dir, said people in the difficult terrain of the district have installed even imported solar systems which has brought revolution in their lives and agriculture.

Over a million tube wells in Pakistan are eating up billions in power subsidy and consuming an estimated 1000-1500MW of power, straining the weak national grid.

According to Ahmad, a solar tube-well with 20 years guarantee could be had by onetime investment of Rs0.9mn which pumps water non-stop from sunrise to sunset for irrigation. Solar pumps could fulfil the daily water requirements of small to medium size fish farms and communities as well. These could pump water from a depth of up to 1000 feet, according to a report.

Pakistan receives high levels of solar radiation throughout the year- around 1000 watts per square meter for most parts of the year. Mr Arif Allauddin, chief executive officer of AEDB said recently said that 2.9mn MW could be produced through tapping solar energy in Pakistan.

But Pakistan has failed to utilise solar power though it has opted to invest heavily in the oil-run power plants.

The AEDB has signed several solar energy MoUs or contracts with different agencies for widespread use of off-grid solar technologies in Pakistan through public and private sector and for dissemination of solar energy and setting up local Solar PV manufacturing facilities.

However, the high cost of solar system installation, public unawareness and banks’ reluctance to lend to investors was further hurting potential projects, however, are keeping the technologies from dissemination.

Failure to establish local solar energy manufacturing units in the country has also made it comparatively costlier.

And several government companies -AEDB, Pakistan council for renewable technologies etc-dealing with the sector and the lengthy process of approval of solar energy projects inhibit investors.

Non-seriousness of authorities can be judged from the fact that AEDB has yet to issue the new updated alternate energy policy. The present policy was drafted in December 2006.

The technology is deemed costly and unaffordable for one person, but is considered within the reach when combined investment is made by a few families or the process is supported by the government and international bodies.

But the fact that solar energy system can be installed with one time investment and then there is no maintenance or operating expenses, those who can afford it are coming towards the technology in great numbers, Ahmad opined.

“While the World Bank or Asian Development Bank are allocating funds for solar technologies, the local banks do not come forward support the sector. AEDB will keep on creating high hopes but actually it is doing nothing,” said an expert.

A project, launched by the UN environment programme in 2003 in the Indian state of Karnataka, facilitated over 18,000 loans for solar panels over three years. UNEP recruited two popular banks to take part in the project as part of their ‘priority sector lending’ obligation and it subsidized the loans to help decrease the interest rate. The UNEP plans to initiate similar projects in other countries but Pakistan is not included.

The government must provide incentives such as tax holidays, grants to the selected villages, schools, mosques and offices, some resource risk coverage, competitive tariff for solar energy and guaranteed purchase agreements from producers and the like.

President Zardari recently asked the concerned bodies to shift Presidency to solar power on the pattern of planning commission and Pakistan engineering council, being financed by Japan. He also advised that one town be converted to solar energy each year, all new development schemes should have solar street lights and solar cookers, heat pumps, water heaters and water pumps be encouraged.

According to a report in the Guardian recently, Greece plans to sell its sun to Germany which plans to develop about 20,000 hectares of solar power parks for exporting renewable energy to Germany. And Greece, facing a default after it secured £97bn in rescue funds, hopes solar energy can help it out of its debt crisis.

Germany is the global leader in solar energy but it has a lot less sun than Greece. After Japan’s Fukushima nuclear disaster, German government has decided to close its nuclear reactors by 2022.

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About Tahir Ali Khan
I am an academic, freelance columnist, writer and a social worker.

18 Responses to Solar technology on the rise in Pakistan

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