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Interview with Mr. Zafar Iqbal — Chairman, SAI Group

PAGE: Kindly tell us something about yourself.

Zafar Iqbal: I am the Chairman of SAI Group/SAI Institute of Studies. SAI Institute of Studies, an affiliate of Cornell University USA, authorised to offer Cornell University courses & certificates.

Besides, I have been associated with the oil and gas sector for more than fifty years. I am the Founder President Defence Residents Society, Founder President Small & Medium Enterprises Alliance, Founder of Bazme Kiran and President, Society for Promotion of Arabic. I have travelled to 22 countries and attended hundreds of seminars.

PAGE: What is your take on the success of renewables and alternative energy in Pakistan?

Zafar Iqbal: The share of renewable energy in the overall energy mix in Pakistan has increased very slowly. Renewable energy here means wind and solar. In 2019, its share in supply was just 1.3 per cent in the total energy mix. In 2022, was just about 6.2 per cent. It should be increased at a faster pace to meet the country’s energy needs. Solar panels are imported. Large-scale local manufacturing will bring a major increase in the mix. It will also create industry and jobs.

PAGE: Could you tell us about the cost and benefits of solar energy?

Zafar Iqbal: The cost-benefit of solar energy in Pakistan is significant. A residential/small commercial project pays back investment typically in 4 years but no more than in 8 years in the early years when panel costs were high.

PAGE: How much per cent is solar energy cheaper than grid power in Pakistan?

Zafar Iqbal: Solar energy is typically around 40-50 per cent cheaper in operating cost than grid power in Pakistan.

PAGE: What is your perspective about government incentives for alternative energy in Pakistan?

Zafar Iqbal: Some of the alternative energy incentives in Pakistan include:

  • Sales tax exemption on import of solar panels.
  • Soft loans from banks to purchase solar panels.
  • Net metering (selling surplus solar power to KE grid) is successful, currently Rs19.32/kWh. As of December 2021, 306MW of net metering systems were installed.

PAGE: What is your standpoint about investment in the business of alternative energy technologies in Pakistan?

Zafar Iqbal: The Government of Pakistan has some major renewable energy projects with significant investment planned.

Category I: in the pipeline and significant work has been done. 19 projects of 531MW that have already been issued LOS subject to revision of tariff in case tariff determination.

Category II: Four solar PV projects of 250MW capacities, achieved financial closing in 2021.

Category III: AEDB prepared the Request For Proposal (RFP) package for carrying out competitive bidding for wind and solar projects carried out the revisions in the RFP documents.