'Sindh to resist tax on solar panels'

Energy minister calls Islamabad's bid to tax solar energy a great injustice to the people

Our Correspondent May 23, 2024
Solar panel. PHOTO CREDIT: Jalal Qureshi


Tax on solar panels will be resisted, said Sindh Energy Minister Syed Nasir Hussain Shah during the question hour at the Sindh Assembly session on Wednesday.

Islamabad's bid to impose tax on solar panels would be a great injustice to the people, especially during this time of inflation and high electricity bills, he said replying to a question from an opposition member.

The Sindh Assembly session presided over by Speaker Syed Agha Siraj Durrani, commenced with a prayer for the deceased Iranian President Dr Ebrahim Raisi. The session featured extensive discussion on the current electricity crisis and prolonged loadshedding.

The assembly saw an extensive discussion on the current electricity crisis and prolonged loadshedding.

Nasir Hussain Shah assured the house that the government is aware of the citizens' suffering and is taking steps to address the issue. He criticized the electricity distribution companies-K-Electric, Hyderabad Electric Supply Company (HESCO), and Sukkur Electric Power Company (SEPCO)-for unscheduled loadshedding during exams. He announced that the government will engage with the chief executives of these companies to resolve the issue

During the question hour, members from both the government and opposition benches expressed concern over the electricity crisis and loadshedding. An opposition member questioned the Sindh government's apparent helplessness in dealing with K-Electric.

In response, the energy minister reiterated that the Sindh government has concerns about the proposed tax on solar panels, despite the Centre's assurance that no such proposal was currently under consideration. He highlighted that imposing a tax on solar panels would be particularly unjust given the current economic climate.

Shah also said that the government would speak with the chief executives of K-Electric, HESCO, and SEPCO about unscheduled loadshedding and overbilling. He lamented the fact that, despite paying fees, meters are not being provided, and the government is taking steps to address the issues faced by the people. Shah criticized the practice of shutting off power to entire feeders due to non-payment by a few households, stating that only those who do not pay their electricity bills should have their power cut off.

The government has assured that it will provide all possible assistance to electricity distribution companies regarding bill payments and theft. The government is aware of its responsibilities, and special measures have been taken to address the heatwave from May 22 to 27. K-Electric, HESCO, and SEPCO have also been directed to ensure uninterrupted power supply during this period.

The energy minister highlighted that Sindh, compared to other provinces, has established SEPRA (Sindh Electric Power Regulatory Authority) to ensure that electricity distribution companies operate under provincial control. He announced that under a five-year plan, 200,000 households will be provided with solar systems, making consumers partners in energy generation. Consumers will be provided with free electricity for up to 300 units through solarization.

According to Chairman Bilawal's manifesto, this facility is currently being provided to consumers using up to 100 units, and its scope will be expanded from 10 districts to the entire province.

Many buildings in Karachi have already been converted to complete solar energy, and all government buildings, schools, colleges, universities, and hospitals will be gradually solarized. Several buildings in Hyderabad, including the Sindh Government Hospital Kohsar Latifabad and Liaquat University of Medical and Health Sciences, have also been solarized.

Shah mentioned that after the 18th Amendment, provinces could set up their own power plants up to 50 megawatts. He claimed that the Sindh government is providing the most and cheapest electricity to the national grid compared to other provinces. Solar parks in Manjhand and Karachi are operational, with others being established under public-private partnerships.

The assembly also passed a resolution, moved by PPP member Khurram Karim Soomro, regarding environmental protection. The resolution demands the initiation of a "One Person, One Tree" campaign in the province and was passed unanimously.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 23rd, 2024.


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