The demand for solar panels has increased considerably, thanks to extensive power and gas outages and high tariffs that have not only hurt industrial activities but have also disturbed the monthly household budgets.
Importers of solar energy panels told The Express Tribune that unbearable energy outages, high tariffs and heavy expenses on generators and Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) had left consumers with no option but to turn to alternative energy, particularly solar panels. They said Chinese solar panels were much cheaper compared to panels imported from Germany which were very expensive and did not come within the range of consumers. In a bid to promote alternative energy, the government has scrapped duty on import of solar energy systems.
According to Nurani Solar Private Limited chairman Tariq Nurani, solar products being imported into the country include solar street lights, solar garden lights, solar generators, solar heaters, solar water heaters and solar water collectors for industry.
“Sales of solar energy panels have increased about 40 per cent compared to winter of last year. Sunshine in Pakistan remains for approximately 10 hours a day, which is enough to produce 1,000 watts per square metre. Producing electricity from the sun is very easy,” said Nurani, who deals in solar products.
However, he pointed to corruption as a major hurdle, saying dry port authorities did not clear consignments until they were paid. “If the government controls this mafia, then the cost of solar panels will come down by up to 30 per cent.” Solar-powered tube wells, water pumps and vacuum tube collectors of Germany can be installed with an investment of Rs400,000 to Rs500,000, said Dr Anjum Muneer, Assistant Professor at the University of Agriculture Faisalabad, which is running a programme in assistance with Germany to promote solar energy.
He said the government should subsidise solar energy products for their promotion, adding the technology might be costly and unaffordable for the consumers, but it would give life-time savings and benefits to them.
Khawaja Cotton Industries Chief Executive Officer Muhammad Amjad Khawaja said he invested Rs5 million to install solar water boilers, but after this the gas bill dropped 40 per cent. He also installed solar energy panels at his home at a cost of Rs90,000 and his electricity bill fell almost 60 per cent.
Khawaja said the rising cost of electricity and energy shortages had ruined the textile sector but solar water boilers almost resolved the problem.
Nadeem Ali Rizvi, a solar energy consumer, said two types of solar panels were being sold in the market, one was large solar panel and the other was a smaller one to power lights and fans. He spent Rs22,000 on home lights, garden lights and street lights, which needed no wiring.
“My electricity bill has dropped 60%. Though the panel was costly, but my monthly savings will help me easily recover the money,” said Rizvi.
Bilal Ahmad, another solar energy consumer said that solar panels, especially small panels, were very economical. “They are cheaper than spending on a UPS or a generator.”
UPS increased the electricity bill by up to 40 per cent per month by charging batteries, he said, adding rising prices of fuel and electricity and load-shedding forced him to install solar panels.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 5th, 2012.