Solar energy shines with opportunities for China and Pakistan – Opinion

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A vast expanse of solar panels cover the surface of a semi-desert in northwest China’s Qinghai Province, turning it into a photovoltaic park. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

Pakistan’s population of 220 million is expected to grow at a rate of 1.5% per year, which will lead to a drastic increase in energy demand. However, the energy deficit has been a serious challenge for the country’s security and economy. Currently, almost 80% of Pakistan’s energy supply comes from the burning of fossil fuels, such as oil and gas which Pakistan has to import.

At the same time, Pakistan is endowed with natural resources such as sunlight and wind. According to recent studies, Pakistan’s solar potential is estimated at more than 100,000 megawatts. Excellent conditions for harnessing solar energy can be found in the southwestern province of Baluchistan, where the sun shines for about eight hours a day or about 3,000 hours a year. For many Pakistani villagers who live far from the national power grid, distributed solar power provides an ideal solution.

Faced with the urgency of global climate change, Pakistan has in recent years promoted more environmentally friendly renewable energy. The government intends to increase the share of clean and green energy to 60-65% of the total energy mix by 2030. Some key initiatives have been taken, such as the village solar electrification programme, in under which more than 40,000 villages too far from the national grid to be economically connected now have access to energy, and the Solar Powered Efficient Pumps program which is designed to replace 1.1 million water pumps that previously operated with insufficient electricity or diesel. Quaid-e-Azam Solar Power in Punjab is the first large-scale solar power plant in the country.

To promote solar energy, the Pakistani government has also offered a flexible and attractive policy that includes tax incentives and legal protection of return on investment (which is usually eight years, the highest in the world). Under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), further incentives are offered to Chinese investors, as well as other preferential treatment.

As the interviews in the book Belt and Road Through My Village have shown, Pakistanis are the beneficiaries of solar energy, which has improved the socio-economic conditions of ordinary people, increased their incomes and made their lives more comfortable. Solar energy has served as a catalyst in the eradication of poverty. People are happy and grateful to their Chinese brothers and welcome more similar development projects to improve their lives. These projects are profitable and, contrary to Western propaganda, they are not debt traps.

China is a world leader in solar energy and meets global demand. Today, China can share its solar technology, experience and stories of environmental improvement with the rest of the world. The new policies of the Pakistani government and its determination to develop solar energy offer Chinese solar companies and investors, as well as the people of Pakistan, a great opportunity to grow together in a clean and sustainable way.

Zamir Ahmed Awan is a senior researcher at the Center for China and Globalization (CCG) and a sinologist at the Pakistan National University of Science and Technology. This piece was first published in People of Asia for Climate Solutions’ book Belt and Road Through My Village.

The opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of China Daily and the China Daily website.

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