ISLAMABAD: The federal and Balochistan governments have agreed to undertake feasibility studies in the next one month in a bid to clear the path for installation of 30,000 solar tube wells in the province by replacing the existing conventional tube wells.
The reliance on solar-powered tube wells in Balochistan will lead to annual savings of Rs23 billion as the federal government will not need to release billions of rupees in electricity subsidy.
The decision was taken in a meeting on Thursday chaired by Federal Minister for Power Division Sardar Awais Ahmed Khan Leghari. It was attended by representatives of the Government of Balochistan, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Planning and Power Division.
Meeting participants agreed that the Quetta Electric Supply Company (Qesco) would frame technical proposals for a smooth transition to solar power.
Qesco and the Balochistan government will jointly prepare workable documents covering technical modalities as well as financial proposals for installing the solar tube wells within the set time frame.
The Power Division minister, while expressing his views, said the federal government was paying Rs23 billion per year in subsidy on 30,000 tube wells in Balochistan and their shift to solar power would ease the burden on the national exchequer. The switch to clean and renewable energy would also ensure power supply at affordable prices to agriculturists and would help increase crop productivity, he said.
Leghari voiced hope that the move would help conserve electricity as all illegal connections associated with the tube wells would be exposed with the connection to solar panels and proper action would be taken against stealing. “Electricity theft from these tube wells will come to a halt.”
The meeting participants were informed that the federal government was ready to pour capital into the solar tube well project and would extend all-out support. “This step will bring an off-grid solution to far flung areas of Balochistan in the near future,” the meeting was told.
A senior government official pointed out that farmers were not paying bills to the public power utility in Balochistan and the absence of payments was adding to the country’s growing inter-corporate debt.
He estimated that Balochistan farmers had to pay Rs150 billion in electricity bills, but aired hope that the replacement of existing tube wells with solar-powered ones would resolve the issue of unpaid bills.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 3rd, 2017.