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Strategy for utilising solar energy

THIS is apropos the letter by Air Cdre (Rtd) Azfar A. Khan about the proposed production of solar photovoltaic cells and panels locally (July 31). However, at this stage it would be better not to invent the wheel once again, since the wheel is already invented.

For producing quality solar panels, quality cells, imported robotic machinery, premium materials, good craftsmanship and independent quality control institutions and a large consumer base are a prerequisite.

According to industry standards, their performance is guaranteed for 25 years at a minimum efficiency of 80 per cent, with zero tolerances. The price of a certified IEC compliant photovoltaic solar panel made to international standards has fallen by as much as 60 per cent since its peak in 2008.

Lower start-up costs are important for a developing country like Pakistan. Concerns about global warming and pollution are driving the interest in this safe renewable energy technology worldwide.

At the current international FOB price of one dollar and fifty cents per watt from the previous price of $5 per watt, the solar photovoltaic technology has now finally come of age and has now attained grid parity.

Like all other developing economies of South Asia, Pakistan also needs sustainable renewable energy because its commercial energy needs are rapidly increasing, especially in cities, while most of the remote villages in rural areas are still not covered by the grid.

Therefore, the poor, specially women and children, are forced to use fuels like kerosene and biomass that pollute and cause respiratory illnesses. Ending energy poverty is about more than helping people see at night; it’s about economic opportunities, safer and healthier communities, better educational opportunities and connection to the rest of the world, besides creating more jobs in the sale, installations and repairs of this new technology.

Solar power is the best alternative because it does not require any prior infrastructure or use of existing resources. It’s safe for night operation and can generate power for other uses, such as charging cellphones or powering medical equipment, refrigeration of vaccines in remote areas, powering computers, wi-fi hot spots, thus opening doors of telecommunications worldwide.

All countries in South Asia are promoting the use of solar technology by tax incentives, liberal imports, user-friendly policies, availability of bank financing and even microfinancing for solar home systems in rural areas.

Unfortunately we have already lost the opportunity to earn carbon credits from the emission reduction projects under the carbon development mechanism (CDM) as the first round of Kyota Protocol is due to expire at the end of the current year. As posted on the website of the Alternate (sic) Energy Development Board.

The ministry of water and power has at last finally exempted PV modules, inverters, charge controllers and batteries as eligible for exemption from all taxes/duties irrespective of the fact that they are imported together or separately.

Now it is for our business class to provide leadership to our youth in the development of this technology which can instantly light up the lives of all segments of our society, both in rural and urban areas.

Sunlight is always free, and the energy generated from this source is a gift of nature. All we need is a strategic policy for the promotion of solar technology. At this moment and time it is possible to buy a small 20 watt solar panel complete with energy home system consisting of two LED bulbs, charge controller and seven ampere-hour battery acid/gell capable of providing lighting, charging a cellphone and powering a transistor radio for just $50, which is just enough to satisfy the needs of a large segment of our population as their prime source of power.

MIRZA ALI AKHTAR

Toronto

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