Despite ban, Punjab seeks offers for solar plants

LAHORE: Punjab Energy Secretary Asad Rehman Gillani has invited private sector to utilise the rooftops of public buildings across the province for renewable energy generation by installing solar panels.

The offer indicates that the provincial government still backs the investors in their drive to explore avenues of investment in renewable energy, though the federal energy committee has imposed a ban on installing solar power plants.

“We will try to fix things with the federal government and will give more facilities to the investors looking to explore the renewable energy potential in the province,” Gillani said while speaking to the business community at a ceremony marking the start of a 12-megawatt solar farm.

“Right now, solar energy is not considered a base load and is utilised only during peak load hours. We wish to shift solar energy to the base load for future energy needs of Punjab and the country,” he said.

He revealed that rooftops of around 80 to 100 public buildings had the empty space for installing solar panels. “I invite private-sector investors to utilise these public structures to tap the cheapest source of clean energy,” he said.

Speaking on the occasion, Spel Group Chairman Almas Hyder emphasised that renewable energy was the future and Pakistan should consider utilising its resources for meeting the future energy needs.

“We applied for establishing two solar power plants, but got approval for only one due to the federal government’s policy,” Hyder said. “Our system is so cumbersome that if any officer wants to help a private-sector investor, he can’t; he has to go through the hectic process before getting the approvals.”

Spel Group’s sister company AJ Power along with Chinese firm CSun Solar International has set up the solar power plant in Adhikot district, Khushab.

The 12MW plant has been established with an investment of $17 million and financing has come from Pakistani banks. The plant is spread over 182,502 square metres and is the first grid-connected project.

Construction of the project had started in June 2017 and it was connected to the grid at the end of November. Its commercial operation started on December 13, 2017.

Solar technology is getting cheaper with the passage of time, according to energy experts, as it now generates one megawatt at a cost of around $1 million. It costs around six cents per unit which makes it one of the cheapest sources of energy.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 19th, 2018.

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