As unimaginable as it may be, there seems to be some good coming out of high electricity tariffs and the rising cost of fuel; the government, along with major industries, have embarked upon a new initiative of harnessing solar power in order to reduce escalating expenditures. Promises of installing solar panels will have to be backed up with sufficient funding, as well as actual implementation but it is good to see that we are taking the first step towards solarisation.
In the last few days, the Pakistan Railways announced its intention to shift its field formations—including stations, offices, workshops and factories, to solar power. The body claims that a successful transition will enable it to save Rs.1.8 billion in the first phase alone. Considering that our national railway system is a loss-making industry, in need of serious upgradation and requires a new transformative approach for its revival, any savings it can accumulate will help immensely.
Similarly, the solarisation programme in the agriculture sector is expected to convert 100,000 diesel and electric-powered tube wells into solar-powered. The trickle-down effect of such a project will be immense; farmers will be relieved of their heightened financial burdens all the while becoming a part of a self-sustaining system for agriculture that can be more productive if its solely relies on solar power. The sector will be able to cut out losses due to expenses or electricity shortages.
Even though this shift towards a greener energy mix is not motivated by environmental concerns, but rather the rising cost of utilities by virtue of ineffective policy making, it is worth appreciating. Perhaps this is the kind of push we needed to finally opt for renewable energy for which Pakistan has immense potential but has only scratched the surface. We have been fortunate enough to be located in a region that receives intense sunlight all year long. More than that, we have excelled trading partnerships with countries like China who are leaders when it comes to solar technology. Access to the skills and expertise needed is available to us, should we seriously consider this to be the future of our country.
The government must do everything within its capacity to encourage this shift towards solar energy, including but not limited to providing incentives like tax exemptions on solar technology to industries and families, spreading awareness about the benefits of net-metering and prioritising skills development and education for solar power.