ISLAMABAD: Participants of an energy conference on Wednesday underlined the need for cashing in on the opportunities arising in Pakistan’s growing off-grid solar power industry in order to address critical energy shortages.
The International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group, joined forces with Pakistan Microfinance Investment Company (PMIC) and the Alternative Energy Development Board (AEDB) to host the conference and highlight the opportunities in the off-grid solar industry to bridge the energy deficit.
More than 200 delegates from the private sector, government, rural support programmes, donor and other international organisations attended the event.
Minister for Power Division Sardar Awais Ahmed Khan Leghari, in his address, said “it is time to nurture alternative energy by making systems more efficient and less bureaucratic, hence, the private sector and distribution companies must join hands to promote affordable lighting solutions in the off-grid areas.”
Praising organisers of the conference, Leghari pointed out that the government was working on the national electricity policy that would be tabled before the Council of Common Interests (CCI) next month for approval.
He boasted that the government had brought about a lot of improvement in power generation, distribution and transmission and more improvements were under way. He, however, acknowledged that wheeling policy was not being implemented by the distribution companies which, if executed, would give a boost to solar energy and attract more investors.
Power supply would get better in the current year and the government was also focusing on improving the electricity distribution system, he said.
The minister anticipated savings of Rs150 billion after the shifting of tube wells to solar power in Balochistan.
World Bank Country Director Illango Patchamuthu said: “Over one billion people live without electricity around the world. We are on the right path to achieve universal access to energy by 2030, but it is vital that we do more as a group to help meet this target.”
At the event, interactive sessions and panel discussions were held on the best ways to provide electricity to consumers at “the last mile” by building commercial supply chains and raising consumer awareness.
IFC Country Manager for Pakistan Nadeem Siddiqui highlighted the importance of engaging the private sector to help reduce the energy access gap, which presented a large and attractive business opportunity, but until now it had been overlooked in Pakistan.
PMIC Chief Executive Officer Yasir Ashfaq said the company was committed to delivering sustainable financial services.
“Providing solar home solutions to people at the bottom of the pyramid is our priority. We are confident our partnership with KfW – a German government-owned development bank – and the IFC on solar solutions will help resolve some of the problems resulting from the lack of energy access and boost economic and social inclusion for the marginalised Pakistanis,” he said.
AEDB Chief Executive Officer Amjad Ali Awan said: “We can create major transformations in such communities by deploying off-grid renewable energy in their backyards. Solar lighting solutions provide an affordable and sustainable way of providing access to electricity for millions of people.”
Pakistan Solar Association’s former chairman and Pakistan Energy Watch General Secretary Engineer Faiz Bhutta called the national electricity policy a great step that would encourage harmony and cooperation amongst provinces and provide equal opportunities for provinces in the generation, transmission and distribution of electricity.
The IFC’s Lighting Pakistan programme is part of its global strategy to support the development of sustainable energy markets.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 15th, 2018.