ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif Tuesday termed solarisation as the “only option for survival”, adding that the centre has devised a plan to immediately convert all the federal government entities’ buildings to solar power by April 2023.
Addressing a solarisation conference, the premier announced the development which took place in a bid to slash a huge chunk out of the costly fuel import bill hovering around $27 billion.
Unveiling further details, PM Shehbaz said that the procedures for conversion of solar power should be fast-tracked as they had set April 2023 as the timeline for the implementation of this plan.
According to the plan, he said, all the federal government ministries, departments, authorities, and their offshoots in the provinces would immediately shift to solar energy.
He said it would be a model for the provincial governments as the federal government would “not make additional expenditures” over the solarisation process.
The premier also urged all the relevant authorities and the stakeholders to complete the required process by the end of April next year and meet the timeline which had been set.
“Consider it our political, social, national, and religious duty to implement it as soon as possible,” he opined.
‘Only option for survival’
The prime minister said with these urgent measures, the government would be able to generate 300MW to 500MW of cheap power, thus reducing the import bill worth billions of dollars each year.
He assured that the whole process would be conducted through transparent bidding via a third party.
He also urged the provincial chief ministers to emulate the federal government’s launched pattern and roll out solar systems in their respective provinces and assured the centre’s complete assistance.
“It is the only option for our survival as a nation,” he added.
The premier said that the process for the generation of 10,000MW solar power in the country had already commenced and such a conversation by the federal government buildings would be the first phase.
Enumerating the economic challenges faced by the country due to skyrocketing fuel and gas prices after the Russia-Ukraine conflict, he said that developing countries like Pakistan had to bear the brunt.
He said the $27 billion costly fuel import bill was a big challenge for the countries like Pakistan, adding the ongoing conflict had also surged the price of gas and worsened its availability as the supply to Europe was disrupted.
PM Shehbaz said during the Covid-19 pandemic, the prices of gas crashed to the lowest and it was sold at $2 per unit, but the then-government committed “criminal negligence” by not securing its import and due to it, now the whole nation had been suffering.
He said during former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s tenure, a 15-year agreement for the purchase of LNG at 13.2% of the brent was reached with Qatar, but unfortunately, it was politicised by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government.
Now due to the global situation, gas was not available, while the fuel was being sold at an exorbitant price in the global market, he said, adding that the government would have to convert to solar and renewable energy with “lightning speed”.
The prime minister said during the previous PML-N government, efforts were made for the production of cheap hydel electricity and land worth Rs100 billion was acquired for the construction of the Bhasha dam, but those were long-term measures to generate affordable power in the country.
He said under China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), coal and gas-fired projects were completed by the PML-N government in 2015 to overcome 20 hours crippling power outages in the country.
“The green lands were turned barren, industries came to a grinding halt, and the country’s exports were nosedived,” the prime minister said.
‘Mountain of challenges’
The prime minister said that several previous governments in the country had not carried out reforms, which resultantly swelled the circular debt and led to costly power generation.
He cited issues like power theft, transmission losses and expensive fuels as the reasons behind power production and said the circular debt in the power sector had reached to whopping Rs2.5 trillion. Similarly, the gas circular debt was also spiralling.
The premier regretted that lack of responsibility and the backlog of years had turned the circular debt into a huge mountain. Those governments had committed negligence that did not introduce reforms to reduce the circular debt, he added.
PM Shehbaz said the federal coalition government was an eight-month nascent one facing a mountain of challenges that kept on piling for decades and expressed the resolve to slowly and gradually overcome these with commitment.
‘No option, but to implement IMF programme’
Criticising the PTI’s government, the prime minister said the NAB-Niazi connivance had pushed the country into economic and political turmoil. “Unfortunately, he will sorrowfully state that a witch-hunting was carried out and a vendetta in the name of accountability was unleashed against politicians.”
“The worst kind of vengeance was manifested which amounted to fascism. Public servants were disheartened and the government officials faced NAB,” he observed.
PM Shehbaz, referring to current economic challenges, maintained that the entire nation was expecting the government to give them respite from the price hike.
He said when Pakistan had to pay $27 billion for expensive fuel and spend its local resources on its import, the nation could not expect development.
The country, only through the conservation of resources in a proper manner like solar and renewable resources, would be able to generate inexpensive electricity, he maintained.
He said the coalition government never wanted to transfer the burden of price hikes. In the past, the agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) was blatantly breached by the PTI’s government.
The prime minister regretted that if the government wanted to give any subsidy in any sector, they had to go to IMF “which is a fact and painful reality”.
He said that they had no other option, but would have to implement the IMF programme and lauded the Pakistani nation for braving the burden of the price hike with patience.