The Quaid-i-Azam Solar Power Plant in Bahawalpur is producing 18.5 megawatts a day on average. This can electrify 54,000 households, Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif said on Friday.
Addressing a press conference, the chief minister compared the project with hydro and wind-power projects. “Those claiming that a 100-megawatt hydropower project can generate more electricity at the same cost are mistaken. Hydropower projects can only be set up at a limited scale in the Punjab,” Sharif said.
The chief minister said the environment in the province was conducive for producing solar power. “We availed the opportunity of generating solar power because the government wanted to rid the people of loadshedding at the earliest,” he said.
Sharif said the government of former president Pervez Musharraf had failed to build Diamer-Bhasha and Dasu Dams for 11 years. The incumbent government had allocated funds for these projects, he said.
He said the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA) had fixed the tariffs for electricity generated from various sources. He said that in 2014, it had calculated the tariff for energy to be produced by the solar project at 16.3 cents kwhr.
“But no solar power project has been launched one-and-a-half years after the NEPRA fixed the rates,” Sharif said.
He said the Punjab government had taken the bold decision to establish the country’s first and the biggest solar project in Bahawalpur. He said that in 2013, a German firm, GIZ, had conducted a study and estimated the installation cost at $2.04 million per megawatt. He said the NEPRA had approved $1.69 million per megawatt.
The chief minister said that no compromise had been made on the transparency and standards during the completion of the solar power park. He said that German consultants had prepared a feasibility report for the project. Tenders were then floated and bids were invited to execute the scheme, he said.
Sharif said the highest bid received was $2 million per megawatt. The lowest bid was $1.51 million a megawatt. He said that NEPRA rules did not allow negotiations with the lowest bidder. Still, he said, negotiations were held with the company in the national interest. “Nearly $20 million was saved [in the process],” he said.
He said this had set a new benchmark for the NEPRA which had then reduced power tariff to 14.1 cents in January 2015. He said the Punjab government had, however, achieved a cost of 13.9 cents.
“I held negotiations with the company offering the lowest bid in the people’s interest. We saved Rs2 billion through the negotiations,” the chief minister said.
Regarding Nandipur power project, Sharif said, “The law minister of the previous government kept the project’s file in a drawer for two years. It is the National Accountability Bureau’s job to look into the matter,” he said. He said the government was working on removing drawbacks in the project.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 12th, 2015.