Saudi ACWA poised to start work on Pakistan solar projects next month

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A worker at a solar power plant. Saudi Arabia’s ACWA Power is planning a number of solar and wind power facilities in Pakistan. (Reuters/File)
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A worker at a solar power plant. Saudi Arabia’s ACWA Power is planning a number of solar and wind power facilities in Pakistan. (Reuters/File)
Updated 18 May 2019

Saudi ACWA poised to start work on Pakistan solar projects next month

  • Riyadh-based company signed $2 billion agreement with Islamabad during Saudi crown prince’s visit in February
  • Only about 5 to 6 percent of power to Pakistan’s national electrical grid comes from renewable energy

KARACHI: Saudi-based ACWA Power is set to start Pakistan operations next month by investing in solar projects in the southwestern Balochistan province, a top Pakistani power division official said on Friday, putting in motion an agreement signed during a high-profile visit to Islamabad by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in February.
The crown prince signed agreements of over $20 billion during his trip, including for a $10 billion oil refinery in the coastal town of Gwadar in Balochistan.
“ACWA Power will come to Pakistan after Ramadan,” Irfan Ali, Federal Secretary Power Division, told Arab News. “They will invest in solar projects in Balochistan.”
“Balochistan is the largest province of Pakistan; we are trying to switch major parts of Balochistan to solar power,” Ali said, adding that “the exact quantum of the investment [by ACWA Power] will be determined after the survey of projects.”
Riyadh-based ACWA Power, partly owned by Saudi’s Public Investment Fund, has a presence in 11 countries including Oman, United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Morocco, South Africa, Turkey, Vietnam, Mozambique, and Egypt with regional offices in Dubai, Istanbul, Cairo, Rabat, Johannesburg, Hanoi, and Beijing.
The company, which develops power and desalinated water plants, signed a $2 billion deal with Pakistan to invest in solar projects during the crown prince’s visit.
Facing enduring energy shortages, Pakistan is taking steps to increase the share of renewable energy in its total energy mix which is at present dominated by fossil fuel at up to 80 percent.
Only about 5 to 6 percent of the power to Pakistan’s national electrical grid currently comes from renewable energy, according to the country’s Alternate Energy Development Board (AEDB).
The new government of Pakistan led by Prime Minister Imran Khan, who came to power in August, is planning to increase the share of renewable energy (power generated from wind, solar, small hydro and biomass sources) to 30 percent by 2030.
Pakistan today imports more than 95 percent of the solar panels and other renewable energy systems it uses, largely from China. But new high quality solar maps — essential to securing financing for major solar projects — show Pakistan is one of the world’s best countries for producing solar energy because of its arid climate and latitude. The maps were developed by the Alternative Energy Development Board and the World Bank, drawing on data from nine solar data stations and 12 wind masts installed across the country.
The solar maps highlight which regions are most suitable for solar power generation. Balochistan, a desert area with little cloud cover or air pollution, has the country’s largest solar potential, they show. Sindh is another prime location.
Pakistan’s data has been made public as part of the Global Solar Atlas website, giving commercial scale projects ready-to-use seasonal and monthly data.
This means investors do not have to spend significant time and money gathering data for their projects. Instead, they can instantaneously acquire certified data of ‘bankable’ quality that should be acceptable to commercial financing institutions. That can substantially lower the costs around projects, which in turn encourages companies to set up large-scale solar power facilities.
Frustrated with constant power cuts, consumers around the country are already installing small-scale roof-top solar systems for their homes and businesses.
In general, the solar industry is poised for massive expansion, driven primarily by cost reductions. Solar Photovoltaic (PV) capacity could reach between 1,760 and 2,500 gigawatts (GW) by 2030, according to AEDB.

Pakistan to be part of new Saudi foreign manpower program 

Updated 14 November 2019

Pakistan to be part of new Saudi foreign manpower program 

  • New skills-based system to be launched from next month
  • Will include India, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Egypt, Bangladesh, and Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: Starting next month, Saudi Arabia will introduce a new skilled foreign manpower program that will eventually include Pakistan, a senior official at the Saudi labor ministry said this week. 

Nayef Al-Omair, head of the vocational examination program at the Ministry of Labor, said on Tuesday in Riyadh that the ministry was categorizing the tasks and the structure of some professions for visa-issuing purposes.

Under the new policy, visas would be issued only after skill tests and the previous system would be gradually phased out. 

The new scheme would be optional for one year starting December 2019 after which it would become compulsory, Al-Omair said. The new program would first be applied to manpower recruited from India due to its large size in the Saudi market.

Eventually, the program will cover seven countries, including India, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Egypt, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. Workers belonging to these states constitute 95 percent of professional manpower in the Kingdom’s local market.

Saudi Arabia is home to around 2.6 million Pakistani expats those have been a vital source of foreign remittances.

Last year the country received $21.8 billion in remittances out of which $5 billion were remitted by Pakistani nationals working in Kingdom.

According to the Pakistani ministry of finance, there was a major decline in manpower export to Saudi Arabia where only 100,910 emigrants proceeded for employment in 2018 as compared to 2017, a drop of 42,453 emigrants.

However, Sayed Zulfikar Bukhari, special assistant to the Pakistani prime minister on overseas Pakistanis, said in an interview earlier this month that Saudi Arabia had agreed to increase the share of the Pakistani labor force in the multi-billion dollar New Taif City development.

Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have formed working groups to develop procedures for this transfer of manpower. Pakistani groups will visit the Kingdom in the coming months to finalize arrangements.