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Taking Punjab’s Solar Revolution to Dubai Expo 2020

by Waqar Azeem Jappa

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Under the leadership of Akhtar Malik, the province’s Energy Ministry hopes to attract international recognition and investment for its efforts to ‘go green’

Energy is a key development sector, requiring intelligent planning and generous budgetary allocations to allow it to serve as the lifeline for all other sectors. The equation is simple: more power production allows for the provision of uninterrupted power supply to industry, services and agriculture sectors, which in turn leads to enhanced economic activity and development. This form of energy-induced economic growth ultimately leads to prosperity.

Punjab province’s minister for energy, Akhtar Malik, not only understands the links between energy and prosperity, but is also cognizant of the ever-increasing energy needs of all sectors. The provincial Energy Department has pursued 43 excellent Annual Development Programs, including 14 ongoing and 29 new schemes, allocating Rs. 7,000 million for them in the current fiscal year. The cherry on the cake is that almost all of the development schemes comprise renewable energy resources; this is a watershed moment in the history of Punjab’s power sector. It also reflects the Usman Buzdar regime’s commitment and dedication toward clean energy.

One of the major initiatives being undertaken by the Punjab Energy Department in FY2021-22 is the solarization/retrofitting of DHQs through the World Bank-funded Punjab Green Development Program—costing Rs. 3,439 million—that saves 6GWh of energy units. The department would also construct an energy efficient building for Rs. 2,200 million, as well as providing electricity to communities through indigenous resources (Rs. 250 million) and the development of solar smart cities across Punjab for which Rs.300 million has been allocated.

A key achievement of the Energy Department in the previous fiscal included solarization of 11,000 public schools—costing Rs. 8,251 million and saving 5GWh energy units. Per the Punjab chief minister’s vision, the Naya Punjab Solarization Project is providing uninterrupted electricity to neglected primary schools, 30 percent of them girls’ schools, mostly in southern Punjab. Approximately 1.5 million students are estimated to benefit from this, leading to a higher literacy rate, congenial environment for studies and decrease in drop out ratio. Overall, the project has added 29MW clean, green and cheap electricity into the national grid while also helping to ultimately enlighten young minds.

Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar and Energy Minister Akhtar Malik

The Punjab energy minister has declared the federating unit a “solar” province. “I believe we are blessed with abundant sunlight and must make maximum out of it. I want to see Punjab becoming a role model in maximum generation of energy through solar. On Punjab Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar’s directions we are excited to take Punjab’s solar revolution to Dubai Expo 2020,” he said.

According to Malik, 17 of the 29 new schemes based on alternative energy resources in the current ADP are solar-based and would seek to solarize darbars; district jails and police lines; shelter homes and Darul Amans; institutes for differently-abled children; tube-wells; model children homes; all branches of the Institute of Mental Health; sports facilities; and WASA water supply and disposal centers, among others. This is in addition to the ongoing solarization of more than 40 public sector universities and all Basic Health Units across Punjab.

The Energy Department, in a bid to reduce its reliance on the national grid, also plans to generate over 5,000MW electricity—including 300MW through several small hydropower projects—under short, medium and long-term strategies by 2024. The province has floated tenders for the construction of 12 mini hydropower projects, and is also looking to establishment the Punjab Grid and Distribution Company.

Minister Malik says the Punjab government has tweaked the federal government’s slogan of “save electricity for yourself” to “make electricity for yourself and the nation.” He said that for this purpose, “we envision Punjab as an energy-secure province by promoting the renewable energy sector involving optimal use of indigenous resources (hydro, waste and biomass), private sector investment, timely regulatory interventions and efficient energy conservation.”

The Punjab energy minister also said that the government wants to provide electricity supply to off-grid villages; set up generation facilities near load centers/clusters; pursue oil and gas exploration; add 300MW solar energy at the 600MW Quaid-e-Azam Solar Park; develop 1,000MW wind corridor at Rajanpur; and promote rooftop solar energy for households. He said the provincial government wants to utilize hydel power potential on Punjab canals and barrages; promote waste-to-energy projects in urban areas; solar/biogas/wind hybrid solutions for rural electrification; biomass-based power plants in agricultural centers; and encourage private sector investment in the power sector. International investment in clean energy is what the government will be looking forward to tap at Dubai Expo 2020, he added.

One lives with the hope that Punjab’s solar revolution would be well-received at the Dubai Expo 2020’s Pakistan Pavilion, bringing international investment for local manufacturing of solar plates and motivating visitors around the world to go green. Punjab Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar rightly deserves a word of appreciation for personally taking keen interest in the immense potential of Punjab’s positive projection at the Dubai Expo 2020, and by motivating major departments to not only perform their jobs, but also presenting them at an international event set around the theme of broadening horizons and sharing ideas.

Jappa works at DGPR and has a keen interest in Political Marketing

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