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March 13, 2018

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France vows to weigh power sector assistance

ISLAMABAD: Marc Barety, the ambassador of France in Pakistan, on Monday said the French Development Agency (AFD) would consider providing assistance in Balochistan’s solar tube-wells project and the development of renewable energy institute.

“The progress in power sector has been exemplary and many French Potential Companies, dealing with power sector, are taking keen interest in Pakistan,” Barety said at a meeting with Sardar Awais Leghari, the minister for power division, at his office. Appreciating the energy-related efforts of the government, the French ambassador said the AFD would definitely study ways to offer its expertise in the installation of solar-powered tube wells and to provide off-grid solution besides reducing the components of circular debt.

Leghari said French companies should explore and invest Pakistan’s fast growing power sector for its better returns. “The consumer services areas in DISCOs (distribution companies) provide good opportunity to investors,” the minister said.

The power minister said the government has been pursuing policies to reduce its role in power sector, while promoting market force to safeguard interests of consumers and also to cater for chronic issues like circular debt etc.

Ministry of finance estimated power sector’s circular debt at Rs472.678 billion as of November 2017. The government entities owed around Rs90 billion to Pakistan State Oil, while independent power producers had to be paid around Rs288 billion. Experts say that without reforming the billing and recovery mechanisms of the distribution companies the power sector's problems cannot be solved.

Leghari said an energy trade market would be established in Pakistan after the passage of National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA) amendment bill. “The power division was already working on the concept of “wheeling” with the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) to make electricity a tradable commodity,” he said and added that it would ultimately benefit the consumers.

He also informed the French envoy about Pakistan’s plans to establish a renewable energy institute and the efforts of Alternate Energy Development Board (AEDB) and Higher Education Commission (HEC) for the same.

“In this regard, Pakistan also was in consultation with the US and Danish governments to learn from their experiences and has invited French government and the AFD for their assistance in the establishment of the institute,” the minister added. He further said the government has also sought assistance of the World Bank and IFC for the renewable energy institute, while the power division was also working on domestic resource mobilisation for setting up the institute.

"To tap such resources and pass on the benefits to consumers, the government would hold competitive bidding for clean energy generation in the future," Leghari pointed out highlighting the potential of renewable energy in Pakistan.

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