April 27, 2018 Read More →

Small-Scale Solar May Win Big in Electricity-Short Pakistan

Bloomberg:

In a small tea shop along a dusty, unpaved road in the marketplace of Sujawal, a town about 93 miles east of Karachi in Pakistan, Imam Dino has hit upon a profitable idea. He attracts customers with a 24-inch television playing Bollywood movies through the day and by providing mobile phone charging sockets in a town that otherwise suffers long outages.

Power for the TV and charging points comes from a solar-panel system that he rents for 2,500 rupees ($22) a month. It’s been a sound investment. Dino makes as much as 3,000 rupees extra a month because of the attractions. Previously, he spent more to run a gasoline generator.

Rural Pakistanis like Dino are increasingly turning to renewable energy to circumvent the country’s notoriously unreliable power supply. Deficient generation and distribution shave an estimated 2 percentage points off Pakistan’s economic growth annually and faults in the national grid are exposed every summer as demand increases. That’s despite a rise in generation by 35 percent to 31,000 megawatts since 2013.

As customers like Dino are discovering, off-grid solar may be the answer. With global panel prices plummeting in the past five years, units powering fans and lights are being sold or rented in the nation’s poorest regions for 1,000 rupees to 3,000 rupees a month, according to distributors EcoEnergy and Nizam Energy. About 10,000 solar systems have been installed since 2013 ranging in size from 50 watts to 200 watts, enough to power six light bulbs and two fans.

Small-scale solar in Pakistan attracted $540 million in 2017, having received less than $100 million in each of the previous two years, according to a report published last month by the United Nations and Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Solar and wind energy contributed 3 percent to Pakistan’s electricity generation, or about 300 megawatts as of March, according to Arif Habib Ltd.

Meanwhile, at Nizam Energy’s office in Karachi, Chief Executive Officer Usman Ahmed boasts they aren’t crippled by the city’s shortages. Their headquarters is powered partially by solar panels on the roof, which he says is 30 percent cheaper than electricity from the grid. The off-grid market may double annually over the next three years, he said.

More: Rural Pakistanis Take To Solar After Power Cuts Deepen In Karachi

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