Pakistan A Step Closer To 1.3 GW Renewable Project

Pakistan A Step Closer To 1.3 GW Renewable Project

Pakistan, where despite a horrendous power grid situation and ideal conditions for solar, renewable energy beyond Hydro has simply not been allowed to take root, might finally be moving towards a GW scale renewable project. The country’s grid has been paralysed with issues linked to its ‘circular debt’, leading to extended blackouts, and a stealthy but accelerating adoption of rooftop solar by desperate consumers.

Now, London-headquartered renewables developer Oracle Power, which had reportedly submitted a clean environment assessment report to the Sindh Environmental Protection Agency and the Pakistan Environmental Protection Agency for review and approval, has also begun feasibility studies for the grid interconnection of the 1.3GW solar, wind and battery energy storage system (BESS) project.

The proposed project includes an 800MW solar PV plant, a 500MW wind project and a “suitable” BESS of undisclosed size, to be located at Jhimpir, Sindh Province in Pakistan.

For the project, Oracle is tying up with China Electric Power and technology, a subsidiary of the State Grid Corporation of China. The Chinese have significant influence thanks to the CPEC investments already made into Pakistan, including in the power sector.

For Oracle, this is the  second project in Pakistani with a state-owned Chinese partner. In April last year, the company signed a cooperation agreement with energy company PowerChina for a 1GW solar PV project, also in Sindh province. Oracle Power’s other key interests in Pakistan include mining leases to a coal block in Pakistani Thar desert, which has rich lignite deposits. Oracle hopes to use the coal from there for a 1320 MW power plant as well.

After a long period of dormancy, and recent failures to attract bids for its first large solar tenders, Pakistan is hoping that a more welcoming policy will support utility scale renewables growth as well. Rooftop solar has become quite popular, including off grid systems with storage, as people seek ways to avoid energy costs that are high, with undependable supply.
But even here, government policy is muddled.

Reports in Pakistani business media indicate that the government plans to decrease the rate of solar power exported to the national grid from Rs21 per unit to Rs11 per unit. This is blamed on the installed capacity of solar net metering surging to 3,000 megawatts, with projections indicating further growth next year. The government cites the financial strain of capacity charges paid to Independent Power Producers (IPPs), regardless of whether electricity is purchased from them to try and reduce costs.

The other big category where solar should find takers is its industrial sector, particularly the textile sector, the mainstay of Pakistani exports as well.

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Tony Cheu

Tony is a BSc who has shifted from a career in finance to journalism recently. Passionate about the energy transition, he is particularly keen on the moves being made in the OECD countries to contribute to the energy transition.