Infant solar industry being destroyed

Karachi, September 23, 2022 (PPI-OT):FPCCI’s Presidential candidate Atif Ikram Sheikh on Friday said Pakistan is among the most promising countries for solar energy, but instead of benefiting from this source of unlimited energy, it is being discouraged. Solar consumers are being cheated and now such policies are in the offing which will wipe out the existence of this important industry, he said.

Taking to an emergency meeting, Atif Ikram Sheikh said that the energy needs of the country are increasing but the unlimited resource of solar energy is not being given importance like oil, coal, gas and LNG while the import of costly fossil fuels worth billions of dollars continues.

He said that India has announced incentives worth Rs 19,500 crores to encourage solar energy. An investment of Rs 94,000 crores is expected in the sector after incentives which will also provide employment to almost one million people and reduce their import bill, but the opposite is happening in Pakistan.

He said that solar energy can play an important role in generating millions of megawatts of electricity, saving precious foreign exchange, tackling the threat of climate change and improving the quality of life of people living in remote areas, but this requires friendly laws which is not the case in Pakistan. Solar consumers are facing systemic exploitation, imports of solar panels etc. have been stopped under various pretexts, solar companies are going bankrupt, banks have refused financing while NEPRA on the behest of DISCOs is working to reduce the profits of solar consumers which will discourage them.

The central bank initiated a very attractive scheme of long-term subsidised financing in 2016, available for solar installations at rates as low as 3-4 per cent with repayment periods extending up to 10-12 years. This funding is now no longer available through commercial banks, the business leader said that the price of electricity is continuously increasing in the country, but electricity is being bought cheaply from consumers who use net metering and now it is being reduced further. Consumers of net metering generate electricity for themselves and sell the surplus to the government to help it overcome shortages.

Presently base tariff is Rs24 in Pakistan but those using net metering are bring paid Rs13 per unit and it has been decided to reduce it to Rs9 per unit which is exploitation. Solar consumers are also made to pay transmission and distribution losses and power theft which is unjustified, he said, adding that authorities should abstain from moves which will destroy the solar industry in Pakistan.

The role of NEPRA is to safeguard the interests of the consumers who are no match for the very strong lobby of distribution companies who always manage to get things done their way at the cost of the consumers.

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