ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said on Thursday Pakistan would soon announce its first comprehensive solar policy as the South Asian nation looks to cut its huge import bill and reduce reliance on non-renewable energy resources.
Hours-long power outages are a common occurrence in Pakistan, where the demand for power outstrips generation during the peak summer months. The rising price of oil globally has also hit Pakistan’s already low foreign exchange reserves, putting more pressure on its resources and weakening its currency.
The Sharif government has blamed the situation on the mismanagement of the power sector by the previous administration of ousted prime minister, Imran Khan. Khan and his aides have denied any blame.
Earlier this month, Finance Minister Miftah Ismail announced during his budget 2022-23 speech the government’s proposal to exempt the import and local supply of solar panels from sales tax. He also said consumers using fewer than 200 units of electricity would be facilitated in obtaining soft loans on easy terms from banks to buy solar panels.
On Thursday, PM Sharif chaired an Energy Task Force meeting in Islamabad where he was briefed on the steps being taken to promote solar energy in Pakistan.
“Coalition govt will soon introduce the country's first comprehensive solar policy after approval of the CCI [Council of Common Interests],” Sharif said in a post shared on social media.
He said the initiative would “drastically cut” Pakistan’s imports and bring down the cost of electricity.
During the task force meeting, the prime minister was informed that up to 1,000 MW solar power plants would be installed on government buildings in the next 10 years on a ‘Build, Own, Operate and Transfer’ basis, according to state-run Radio Pakistan.
The premier was told about the government’s efforts to power tube wells via solar energy and that a project in Balochistan was under consideration for that purpose.
Sharif was quoted by Radio Pakistan as saying that the Prime Minister House and Prime Minister’s Office would be converted to solar energy on an emergency basis in a month’s time. The Presidency in Pakistan is already fully powered by green energy.
Earlier this month, Sharif’s government decided to reduce the official working week across Pakistan from six days to five.
After taking office in April, Sharif had increased the working week to six days from five, with only Sunday as a day off, saying he wanted to increase productivity. However, the enhanced work week resulted in greater electricity and fuel consumption by government offices and employees.