Solar power fast becoming out of reach

'Solar installations are neither accessible nor affordable for the average citizen,' say a local vendor

Aamir Khan September 16, 2023
People carry off solar panels bought from a shop in the Regal Square area of Saddar. Photo: Jalal Qureshi/express


Where the recent spike in the cost of electricity has devastated millions of families across the country, forcing many to consider investing in sustainable sources of energy, the peaking costs of solar panels have left hapless citizens in an inescapable quandary.

Despite the federal government making tall claims of expanding the alternative energy sector, minuscule progress has been made in the development of sustainable electricity generation projects, leading to the current energy crisis, where the unavailability of locally manufactured solar panels, alongside the imposition of import sanctions and fees has dimmed the hopes of citizens seeking to reduce their electricity bills.

“Solar installations are neither accessible nor affordable for the average citizen,” shrugged Raza, a local, who felt that reducing the usage of electronic appliances was the only choice left for many like him. However, even those who have installed solar panels, believe that they are extremely expensive and hence cannot solve the energy crisis plaguing countless households.

“We had to save money for some time before installing a small one-kilowatt solar system which cost us more than Rs 200,000,” informed Shahida, who urged the government to formulate a policy which streamlined the import and installation of cheap, environment friendly sources of energy like solar panels.

Read Govt revises decision to promote solar projects

According to Rizwan Irfan, President of the Karachi Electronic Dealers Association, the recent increase in the prices of electricity has greatly magnified the demand for cheaper, alternative sources of power. “However, the biggest hindrance is that we cannot develop solar power systems locally and have to import solar plates, inverters, and other items. Since the government has not allowed the Compulsory Letter of Credit (LC) for solar paraphernalia, installing solar panels has become increasingly unaffordable,” he claimed.

Concurring with Irfan, Azhar, a shopkeeper selling solar panels, opined that solar panels had become so pricey that now only the wealthy could purchase them. “The spike in electricity rates has increased the demand for solar panels, leading to a 30 per cent rise in their cost of installation,” said Azhar, who revealed that most people were only using low-cost electric charged fans and bulbs during load shedding which required a simple one-kilowatt solar connection.

“The one-kilowatt solar system costs about Rs 163,000 and the battery and fans have to be purchased separately,” seconded Saleem Memon, an importer of solar panels, who called out the government for complicating the import of solar systems.

Speaking to The Express Tribune on the matter, Abubakar Ahmed, Secretary at the Sindh Energy Department conceded that the energy crisis was one of the biggest problems facing the country at the moment. “We are working towards creating electricity from solar and wind sources and a solar factory will be set up within a year. Furthermore, the Sindh government is also planning to distribute 200,000 small solar panels under the Alternative Energy Programme. In addition to that, steps will also be taken to shift domestic units, including all government offices, to solar energy,” asserted Ahmed.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 16th, 2023.