ISLAMABAD: The federal government’s solar project planned to be built in Muzaffargarh was opposed by PTI’s provincial government of KP in a public hearing held on Monday by the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA).
The project has been envisioned to slowly wean the country off the use of expensive fossil fuels for energy generation. The 600-MW solar project will contribute green energy in place of thermal power generation.
During the Nepra hearing, the representatives of the KP government said that the federal government has not consulted them before launching the project. This, according to them, goes against the ARE policy approved in 2019.
The opposition came despite the legal opinion in favour of the project provided by the Ministry of Law and Justice based on the Alternative and Renewable Energy (ARE) Policy.
The KP government has declared that the federal government cannot start the solar energy project at Muzaffargarh (Punjab) without getting approval from the Council of Common Interest (CCI) since the provincial government was not consulted.
The CCI is a constitutional body of Pakistan’s government. The president appoints it on the recommendations of the prime minister. The council settles power-sharing conflicts between the federal and provincial governments.
On the contrary, the representatives of the federal government were of the opinion that the Ministry of Law and Justice had also provided a legal opinion that is in line with the overall renewable energy strategy, therefore the opposition, they believe, is pointless.
Documents available with Profit disclosed that the law division has supported the proposed solar projects from a legal point of view.
Representatives of the federal government said that the solar project is going to start under the purview of the Alternative Energy Development Board (AEDB).
The AEDB had also earlier granted its approval in this regard in a meeting where the chief secretary of KP was present along with stakeholders from other provinces.
It is relevant to note here that the proposed initiative for substitution of expensive imported fossil fuel with solar energy is in fact in line with the ARE Policy, 2019 that was approved by the PTI government at the time.
ARE Policy 2019
The 2019 Policy for Alternative and Renewable Energy provides a blueprint for further realising the full potential of renewable forms of energy in Pakistan while encouraging competitive pricing.
The policy provides a comprehensive framework with a broader scope that encourages the use of renewable resources and the use of energy efficient technology by businesses and residential consumers.
The initiatives outlined in the policy are expected to put in place the necessary infrastructure to ensure that renewable energy is completely mainstreamed and integrated into the country’s energy planning, economic, and social development processes, ultimately benefiting the people of Pakistan.
Similarly, the AEDB, according to the law, is empowered, “to develop national strategy, policies and plans for utilisation of alternative and renewable energy resources to achieve the targets approved by the federal government in consultation with the board.”
Earlier, the AEDB had submitted the relevant documents to Nepra for approval to carry out the bidding process for the solar energy project. And, the authority on Monday after consideration of the documents, conducted a public hearing to make a decision in this regard.
It is pertinent to mention that to promote sustainable green energy and to reduce use of imported fossil fuels to arrest the drain of precious foreign exchange, the federal cabinet on October 18, 2022, approved the guidelines for the substitution of expensive imported fossil fuels for energy generation with solar energy.
This will be the first 600-MW solar energy project under the initiative, to promote renewable energy; it is planned to be developed in the region of Kot Addu/Muzaffargarh, Punjab.
The project site has been finalised after due consideration and research regarding resource availability, existing grid infrastructure, water availability and close proximity with the load centre to maximise the project efficiency and minimise costs.
The Central Power Purchasing Agency (CPPA) will purchase all power generated on a 25-year BOOT (Build Own Operate and Transfer) basis while the government of Pakistan (GoP) will provide an exemption from duties and taxes on the import of solar equipment including land for the project and power offtake through the NTDC.