Experts call cap on solar energy ‘insane’

Ex-NEPRA chief stresses no one can stop spread of solar power technology

Zafar Bhutta May 21, 2024
“Pakistan and China are a perfect match for collaboration on renewable energy (solar PV) as China is a globally known giant in renewable energy technology, while Pakistan needs to move away from thermal for power generation,” stated a KTrade Securities solar PV industry report. PHOTO: CHINA ECONOMIC NET


While criticising the government for reversal of its net metering policy, energy experts have described the move to limit the rollout of solar energy as “insane”.

Speaking at a roundtable on solar net metering, the experts demanded an urgent holistic revamp of the existing policy for promoting solar energy as the cheapest electricity resource amid growing consumer demand.

The Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) and the Energy Update jointly organised the roundtable discussion on “Solar net metering conundrum: adapting solar net metering to evolving market dynamics in Pakistan”.

Former National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra) chairman Tauseef Farooqi remarked that floodgates had been opened and no one could stop the rollout of solar power technology.

“It will be insane to claim that they will put a limit on solar energy rollout as it will not benefit the national grid, however, the manner in which net metering is done should be probed to see whether it is catering to needs of the most deserving communities,” he said.

He added that the cheapest electricity priced at Rs12.3 per unit could be easily injected into the system but the government was buying energy at Rs23 from the elite power producers, the cost of which was being borne by the poorest.

Farooqi suggested that cheapest electricity should be bought by promoting net metering at the community scale with power production at a low cost. People should avoid the misuse of net metering and contribute their share to the clean energy mix, he stressed.

The ex-Nepra chairman underlined the need for bringing a drastic change in the energy mix amid growing solar net metering as solar would compensate in the day time but load would shift in the evening on to the system, which would require high-speed generators to manage the burden.

“We will need peaking plants amid growing net metering whereas the pricing mechanism needs to be shaped to avoid previous mistakes. However, the sector should create an electricity market with a competitive environment,” he said.

In his opening remarks, SDPI Executive Director Dr Abid Qaiyum Suleri said despite the government’s repeated assurances of no taxes on solar panels and reversing the net metering formula, it was pertinent to work out research-based solutions. He said the policy reversal in the energy sector was not new as the nation had witnessed such a transition while shifting from diesel-based vehicles to CNG-powered vehicles.

Owing to technology transformation, Suleri mentioned, solar panels were becoming affordable, which would further expedite the rollout of solar energy while policy reversal was on the cards.

The SDPI executive director emphasised that it was the duty of the think tank to initiate well-informed discussions on pros and cons of the decision while considering the country’s environmental and other obligations.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 21st, 2024.

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