PESHAWAR: The provincial administration of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) plans to solarize 8,000 schools, 187 health facilities and 4,000 mosques in off-grid areas and neighborhoods that frequently experience prolonged power outages, senior officials working on the project said this week.
The initiative is part of a Rs4.3 billion project financed by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to tackle a crippling energy crisis in the northwestern province, including tribal districts, located on the border with Afghanistan.
Last week, a statement from the KP chief minister’s office said the administration was working on a number of hydropower projects which would not only help overcome the energy crisis in the province but also give impetus to the country’s industrial and economic activities.
“We have decided to solarize areas that face frequent power breakdowns,” Mustafa Kamal, regional manager of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Energy Development Organization (KPEDO), told Arab News. “During the first phase of the project that was carried out from 2018 through February 2020, we solarized 300 mosques and other worship places in the tribal districts. The project also benefited 100 villages and 1,000 households.”
Fayyaz Ali, headmaster of a government-run primary school in a village located in Charsadda district, applauded the initiative, saying it was a relief for parents who had stopped sending their children to the school due to scorching summer heat and prolonged power outages.
“We invited parents to visit the school after the installation of solar panels,” he said. “Our enrollment level has surged within weeks and parents are once again bringing children back to school.”
According to Shaukat Afzal, who works as a public relations officer with the Peshawar Electric Supply Company, the province had surplus electricity, though it had ‘rampant power theft’ and poor distribution, which caused line losses.
“The province has 1,890-megawatt electricity, which exceeds our demand,” he said. “However, parts of the province undergo load management due to rampant power theft cases in remote areas.”
Sajid Ali, a sub-engineer with the province’s power development organization, said the solarization of a mosque cost up to Rs500,000, with the process requiring that authorities buy six solar panels, that would generate 4,000-watt electricity, and a 48-volt battery.
“The equipment can light up ten rooms and power six fans in the mosque,” he said, adding that several organizations had been awarded contracts by the government to import solar equipment, primarily from China.
Over the last year, many households in Gomal, a dusty town near South Waziristan, had decided to install solar panels on their own also, tired of endless power cuts. Some residents of the town also complained of overbilling despite frequent power interruptions.
Khalid Khan, 30, a government employee from Tank district, said solar panels were becoming popular due to their low cost, simple installation and easy maintenance.
“Given the erratic power supply, people have decided to tap into renewable energy,” he said. “The government should ensure that these areas completely switch to solar energy.”