Solar energy package on the cards

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The government is working on a comprehensive solar energy package comprising tax waivers and concessionary loans for consumers in a bid to overcome the prolonged power outages that have stalled life in the country.

The solar package will also include a short-term plan for shifting government offices on to solar energy. It involves preparation of a plan for helping small consumers to switch over to solar energy with the help of subsidy or concessionary loans.

The government is planning to waive general sales tax on all the components used in generating
solar energy.

It may also allow net metering on single phase connections. First, a standard meter will be installed and then a meter will be placed for net metering.

The energy task force, chaired by MNA Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, reviewed the solar power plan in a recent meeting.

The prime minister constituted the task force on solar energy initiatives with a vision to promote sustainable and green energy. Members of the task force included Minister for Finance and Revenue Miftah Ismail, Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Ahsan Iqbal, Minister for Information and Broadcasting Marriyum Aurangzeb, Minister for Power Khurram Dastgir Khan, Minister of State for Petroleum Musadik Masood Malik and power secretary.

Its first meeting was held recently under the chairmanship of Shahid Khaqan Abbasi to consider the initiatives required for promoting solar energy.

Skyelectric CEO Amin Sukhera, representing the private sector, also attended the meeting on the invitation of committee chairman.

Task Force Convener Abbasi briefed the participants that the purpose of the meeting was to suggest the way forward for the formulation of the plan and invited suggestions from the participants.

The meeting participants floated various options, which were deliberated in detail.

It was discussed that government offices, federal as well as provincial, should switch over to solar energy in phases. All the ministries, divisions, departments and entities will bear the expenses from their own budget.

It was stressed that solar energy should be adopted through a competitive bidding process. A standard bidding document will be prepared by the Alternative Energy Development Board (AEDB) for the bidding process, focusing mainly on the specifications of goods.

The quality of products should not be compromised, the meeting was told. AEDB will also prepare a comprehensive solar energy model plan for its presentation to the task force.

It was decided that Skyelectric, in collaboration with the Islamabad Electric Supply Company (Iesco) and AEDB, would run a pilot programme through the installation of a 1kV solar system on each household in a cluster of at least 10 houses, using 0 to 200 units per month. They will be connected with an inverter through net metering.

Skyelectric CEO will submit results of the pilot project, which will be extended to other households in future.

During the meeting, the task force decided to form task forces at the provincial level as well to implement the recommendations and final decisions, duly approved by the prime minister.

It decided that the installations should be certified and tested by an accredited laboratory.

AEDB chief executive officer will share the bidding document with the convener of the task force prior to its submission to the body. PM Shehbaz will take decision on the proposals and recommendations for executing the comprehensive solar plan.

At present, the consumers are using solar panels on a small scale without support of the government. The government should allocate some of the funds out of the total subsidy allocation for the power consumers in the budget, the meeting was told.

Experts said the government should even announce a package to run tube wells on solar energy in Punjab and other provinces. It should give one-off support to farmers for installing the solar tube wells, they added.

The government had already been subsidising electricity for running the tube wells. Experts said that the subsidy should be diverted to support the setting up of solar-based tube wells, which would not only help the farmers but would also ease the burden on the consumers.

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