Pakistan says net-metering promotes ‘unhealthy investments’ in solar power

Pakistan says net-metering promotes ‘unhealthy investments’ in solar power
Students look at the facade of a building made with solar panels producing some 148 Kilowatts during its inauguration at the University of Engineering and Technology in Lahore on October 12, 2020. (AFP/FILE)
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Updated 27 April 2024

Pakistan says net-metering promotes ‘unhealthy investments’ in solar power

Pakistan says net-metering promotes ‘unhealthy investments’ in solar power
  • Government says massive solar installation is affecting 30 million consumers, imposing Rs1.90 per unit burden on them
  • Experts say the government’s ‘regressive policies’ will make it difficult to cut fossil fuel and promote renewable energy

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan government said on Saturday net-metering was promoting unhealthy investments in installation of solar power by affluent domestic and industrial consumers, hinting at cutting the buyback rates to discourage uptick in the sector.

The government approved the net-metering policy in 2017, allowing solar panel purchasers to sell power they produced to the national grid to spur the solar energy use and cut power shortages. Under the policy, the government is paying Rs21 per unit for the net-metered electricity which the government says is resulting in the subsidy of Rs1.90 per unit, burdening the government.

This development comes at a time when the price of solar panels has plummeted by more than 60 percent in Pakistan in recent weeks due to the bulk imports from China because of lower rates, making the country witness a surge in the solar power installation by domestic and industrial consumers to reduce their electricity bills.

“The present system of net-metering is promoting unhealthy investments in solar power,” the energy ministry said in a statement on Saturday. “Affluent consumers have been massively installing solar power due to which domestic, industrial consumers and the government have to bear the burden of Rs 1.90 per unit under the head of subsidy.”

The ministry warned the subsidy was affecting some 25 to 30 million “poor consumers,” and if the trend of the solar power continued, the bills of ordinary consumers would surge by at least Rs 3.35 per unit. However, it clarified no fixed tax was being imposed on the solar power.

The 2017 net-metering policy was aimed at promoting renewable energy in the system, which helped enhance the solarization in the country that now “needs to be balanced,” the ministry said.

Pakistan has ideal climatic conditions for solar power generation, with over nine hours of sunlight in most parts of the country. Utilizing just 0.071 percent of the country’s area for solar photovoltaic (solar PV) power generation would meet Pakistan’s electricity demand, according to the World Bank.

Currently, only 5.4 percent of Pakistan’s installed power generation capacity of 39,772 megawatts comes from renewables like wind, solar and biomass, while fossil fuels still make up 63 percent of the fuel mix, followed by hydropower at 25 percent, according to the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA).

The South Asian nation of 241 million aims to shift to 60 percent renewable energy by 2030 with 50 percent reduction in projected emissions, but it stands far behind in meeting the goal despite a recent surge in the solar power.

Energy experts said the government’s “inconsistent” solar power policies would result in discouraging the sector and its failure in meeting the national and international commitments of cutting the greenhouse gas emissions.

“Public sector the world over is promoting renewable energy to cut fossil fuel while we are discouraging consumers with regressive policies,” Aamir Hussain, chairman of Pakistan Alternative Energy Association, told Arab News.

He said the association had suggested the government to issue licenses to consumers for their actual household or industry load instead of allowing them to install massive solar power with a promise to buyback the surplus.

“The government should come up with an inclusive policy to promote renewable energy instead of discouraging consumers by slapping taxes or cutting the rates,” he added.

IFC invests $3 million in Pakistan’s first women-led venture capital fund

IFC invests $3 million in Pakistan’s first women-led venture capital fund
Updated 23 July 2024

IFC invests $3 million in Pakistan’s first women-led venture capital fund

IFC invests $3 million in Pakistan’s first women-led venture capital fund
  • Pakistan’s i2i Ventures accelerator provides early-stage funding to startups
  • The venture capital fund backs founders by providing them hands-on support

ISLAMABAD: The International Financing Corporation (IFC) has invested $3 million in Pakistan’s first women-led venture capital fund, i2i Ventures, under its Startup Catalyst Programme that supports innovative early-stage startups, the global development institution said recently.
The IFC focuses on the private sector in developing countries by advancing economic development, creating jobs and improving the lives of people, according to its website. The fund aims to back founders by investing in pre-seed and seed-stage startups.
On the other hand, i2i Ventures is a startup accelerator and a venture capital firm based in Pakistan that focuses on supporting and investing in early-stage startups and entrepreneurs in the region.
The IFC said its catalyst program invests in incubators and accelerators supporting startups in underserved markets and i2i Ventures was extending extensive support for early-stage startups in Pakistan.
“The financing comprises up to $2 million from IFC’s account and up to $1 million from the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative (We-Fi), which supports women-owned and led firms and builds the capacity of women entrepreneurs to run high-growth businesses,” the IFC said in a statement.
i2i Ventures, set up by Kalsoom Lakhani and Misbah Naqvi in 2019, provides crucial early-stage financing for startups and backs founders by providing them with hands-on support.
“We saw firsthand both how hard it was to build businesses in Pakistan, and how resilient Pakistani founders were as a result,” Naqvi said. “i2i Ventures was born from that experience of seeing up close the potential of startups in the market, and the need for founder-centric investors who understood business and market challenges and could support their growth at the early stage.”
Zeeshan Sheikh, IFC country manager for Pakistan and Afghanistan, said his corporation aimed to ensure startups continue to access crucial funding and support.
“There is tremendous potential in Pakistan for startups to develop and scale up new technologies and tech-enabled business models that address issues such as climate change or help increase access to quality education, health care, and financial services, among others,” he said.
“But early-stage entrepreneurs, and particularly women, face significant challenges in accessing the resources they need to launch and grow their businesses. Tackling this is critical to build ecosystems that boost innovation and entrepreneurship.”
IFC’s Startup Catalyst Program, launched in 2016, has supported 22 accelerators and seed funds that have invested in over 1,180 startups in 24 emerging markets so far, according to corporation.
Earlier this month, DealCart, a Pakistani e-commerce startup focused on transforming the way consumers access essential goods, successfully raised $3 million in a funding round led by leading Middle East investment fund, Shorooq Partners.

Pakistan adds 150,000 retailers to tax net, sees 30 percent revenue boost in last fiscal year

Pakistan adds 150,000 retailers to tax net, sees 30 percent revenue boost in last fiscal year
Updated 23 July 2024

Pakistan adds 150,000 retailers to tax net, sees 30 percent revenue boost in last fiscal year

Pakistan adds 150,000 retailers to tax net, sees 30 percent revenue boost in last fiscal year
  • The finance minister shares the details of the national economy with representatives of Moody’s in a virtual meeting
  • He also underscores the ongoing reforms in energy sector, privatization process and the new IMF staff-level agreement

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has registered 150,000 retailers as first-time taxpayers and witnessed a 30 percent increase in revenue collection in the last fiscal year, the finance ministry said on Tuesday, as the country strives to broaden the tax net following the approval of a $7 billion International Monetary Fund (IMF) bailout program.
Pakistan’s narrow tax base and persistent issue of tax evasion have led to insufficient revenue collection, burdening the fragile national economy. This shortfall exacerbates the government’s tendency to run a high fiscal deficit, often financed through domestic and international borrowing, which increases the nation’s debt burden.
Earlier this month, Pakistan reached a staff-level agreement with the IMF for the $7 billion loan, the latest move to seek assistance from the global lender to keep the country’s economy afloat. The development came just days after the government presented its first federal budget of $67.8 billion, setting an ambitious tax collection target of $46.7 billion.
The ministry said in a statement that Finance Minister Muhammad Aurangzeb had a Zoom meeting with representatives of a global credit rating agency, Moody’s, in which he gave an overview of the country’s overall economy, highlighting the increase in forex reserves and remittances, and the decline in inflation.
“He also noted that over 150,000 retailers have registered as first-time taxpayers, marking a significant stride toward broadening the tax base,” the finance ministry said in an official statement. “He emphasized a 30 percent rise in tax collection in FY2024 and outlined reforms to broaden the tax base, including new agricultural taxes and digital initiatives at the Federal Board of Revenue.”
The statement said Aurangzeb mentioned the government aimed to increase revenues by three percent of GDP by FY2027, with plans for a primary surplus of one percent of GDP, demonstrating Pakistan’s commitment to fiscal sustainability and growth.
It added the finance minister updated Moody’s representatives about the successful completion of the country’s nine-month IMF stand-by arrangement secured last year, which had a positive impact on the country’s macroeconomic indicators.
He also highlighted multilateral institutions’ confidence in financing Pakistan’s developmental projects by referencing the recent IMF agreement.
The minister underscored ongoing reforms in the energy sector and state-owned enterprises, including privatization and rightsizing efforts aimed at improving operational efficiency and governance.
The statement said Moody’s representatives appreciated the comprehensive briefing and expressed confidence in Pakistan’s economic trajectory, underpinned by robust fiscal reforms and strategic initiatives.

Ex-PM Khan party calls aide’s ‘confession’ to using social media against Pakistan’s interests fake

Ex-PM Khan party calls aide’s ‘confession’ to using social media against Pakistan’s interests fake
Updated 27 min 51 sec ago

Ex-PM Khan party calls aide’s ‘confession’ to using social media against Pakistan’s interests fake

Ex-PM Khan party calls aide’s ‘confession’ to using social media against Pakistan’s interests fake
  • Ahmed Janjua was taken away from his home last week and remanded into police custody for seven days on Monday
  • Police report says Janjua admitted to promoting ‘anti-state narrative’ and ‘sabotaging Pakistan’s sovereignty and peace’

ISLAMABAD: Former prime minister Imran Khan’s party on Tuesday denied police claims that his senior media manager had confessed to using social media to promote an “anti-state narrative” and “sabotage Pakistan’s sovereignty and peace.”
Ahmed Waqas Janjua was “abducted” from his home last week by plainclothes officers, prompting his wife to file an application before a court for his recovery. Janjua was presented before an anti-terrorism court on Monday and was remanded into police custody for seven days.
The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party of jailed ex-PM Khan has been facing a widening crackdown in recent months, which has included bans on holding rallies and the arrests of party leaders and supporters. On Monday, the PTI’s Information Secretary Raoof Hassan was arrested from the party’s Islamabad office and remanded in police custody for two days on Tuesday.
A police report filed this week quoted Janjua as saying during interrogation that “we [PTI social media team] have been damaging the country daily with the help of internal and external forces, and for it, an anti-state narrative is built daily on social media to damage the country’s sovereignty, integrity and freedom.”
While it was unclear under what conditions Janjua provided the so-called confession, Sayed Zulfikar Abbas Bukhari, ex-PM Khan’s key adviser on media, said this was a “fake confession” and Janjua did not say this.
“There is no such thing as a confession while you are in custody, under duress and under threat,” Bukhari told Arab News. “This couldn’t work in court of law because it is obvious whatever they’re trying to do, they are trying to do forcefully.”
Additionally, the police report said the party’s media cell headed by Hasan had been launching daily social media campaigns urging people to go up against the state and the Pakistan army and create an “environment of rebellion” by portraying the government and law enforcement agencies as being responsible for rising militancy in the country.
The latest arrests and charges against the PTI members come as many of its senior members and leaders, including Khan himself, remain behind bars.
Last week, the federal government announced it would move to ban the PTI over involvement in anti-government and anti-military riots last year, for leaking state secrets and for receiving illegal foreign funding. Khan and the PTI say all charges against them are motivated to keep them out of politics and dent their popularity.
Khan has been in jail since August last year, even though all four convictions handed down to him ahead of a parliamentary election in February have either been suspended or overturned.
After being acquitted on the last of those four convictions, authorities rearrested Khan and his wife in an old corruption case on charges of selling state gifts unlawfully. He also faces an accusation of inciting his supporters to attack military installations in May last year. Khan denies all the accusations.
His party secured the largest number of seats in parliament in the February general election despite what Khan’s party says is a military-backed crackdown that aims to keep him out of power. It also won nearly two dozen extra parliament seats in a court ruling last week.
Khan blames his 2022 ouster in a no-confidence vote on Pakistan’s powerful army generals after he fell out with them, a charge the army denies.

Sit-in continues in northwest Pakistan over militancy surge, protesters reject army operation

Sit-in continues in northwest Pakistan over militancy surge, protesters reject army operation
Updated 23 July 2024

Sit-in continues in northwest Pakistan over militancy surge, protesters reject army operation

Sit-in continues in northwest Pakistan over militancy surge, protesters reject army operation
  • Pakistan government has announced new counter-terrorism campaign in areas along the border with Afghanistan
  • Past armed operations against militants have displaced hundreds of thousands of people and destroyed livelihoods

PESHAWAR: Protest organizers leading a sit-in in Pakistan’s northwestern Bannu district said on Tuesday they opposed a proposed military operation in the region, demanding that a spike in militant attacks be tackled by empowering and better equipping civilian agencies like the police and counter-terrorism department (CTD).
Pakistan’s federal government last month announced a new campaign to counter a fresh surge in militancy in areas along the border with Afghanistan. Major opposition parties have opposed the operation and in Bannu — where eight soldiers were killed in a suicide bombing last week — thousands of people have held rallies to call on authorities to ensure peace and security.
On Friday, at least two persons were killed and more than 20 injured after gunfire triggered a stampede at the rally in the northwestern Pakistani city, prompting a sit-in that continues to date.
One of the main demands of the protesters is that federal and provincial authorities not launch any new military offensive in the area as past military campaigns have led to the displacement of hundreds of thousands of residents.
“We can’t accept any further military operations because we have already witnessed results of operations in South and North Waziristan tribal districts, which left families homeless and houses destroyed,” Nasir Khan Bangash, president of the 45-member Bannu Aman Jirga and a senior member of the Bannu Chambers of Commerce, told Arab News on Tuesday.
“Our viewpoint is that maintaining law and order is the job of police and CTD, and they should carry out any search operations to detain any wanted person or clear the suspected area.”
Bangash added that the military’s job was the “defense” of the country’s borders, while ensuring peace and internal security was the constitutionally mandated duty of the police and CTD.
“Against the backdrop of lawlessness, police and CTD forces should be equipped to deal with security issues of the district because both the forces are raised for the purpose,” he added.
The Pakistan army was able to effectively dismantle the Pakistani Taliban, or TTP, and kill most of its top leadership in a string of military operations from 2014 onwards in the country’s tribal areas, driving most of the fighters across the border into Afghanistan, where Islamabad says they have regrouped. Kabul denies this.
Islamabad says the new surge in violence is because Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers are not doing enough against militants using its soil to launch attacks on Pakistan. Kabul says rising violence in Pakistan is a domestic issue and it does not allow militants to operate on its soil.
Past military operations have displaced hundreds of thousands of people and destroyed countless lives and livelihoods in Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, sparking a civil rights movement by ethnic Pashtuns.
Fears of more displacement have been raised by the announcement of the new Azm-e-Istehkam operation but in a press conference this week, Pakistani military spokesman Lt Gen Ahmed Sharif Chaudhry dispelled the fears, saying the campaign was not meant to be a full-scale military operation.
“This is a comprehensive campaign against terrorism, which won’t just root out terrorism but which will lift up all of society,” he said at a press conference.
Still, Bangash insisted the people of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province did not want any type of operation.
“Our main demand is peace and stability in the Bannu region, which is key to normal social life and enhanced business activities,” he said.
The group had already held “constructive” talks with KP Chief Minister Ali Amin Gandapur, Bangash said, and now the provincial apex committee, which comprises civilian leaders and military commanders in the province, would meet to discuss the issue on Thursday.
However, he said the sit-in, which entered its fourth day on Tuesday, would continue and any agreement reached with the government would have to be approved by the protesters.

Pakistan’s Sindh extends summer vacations as charity suspects nine heat-related deaths in Hyderabad

Pakistan’s Sindh extends summer vacations as charity suspects nine heat-related deaths in Hyderabad
Updated 23 July 2024

Pakistan’s Sindh extends summer vacations as charity suspects nine heat-related deaths in Hyderabad

Pakistan’s Sindh extends summer vacations as charity suspects nine heat-related deaths in Hyderabad
  • Pakistan has witnessed several heat waves since May, with temperatures rising above 52°C in the Sindh province
  • Provincial Disaster Management Authorities has also warned of flash floods in Sindh amid forecast of heavy rains

KARACHI: Pakistan’s southern Sindh province, which has been in the grip of hot weather for months, has extended summer vacations in educational institutions till August 14, the provincial education department said on Tuesday, as a Pakistani charity reported nine suspected heat-related deaths.
Pakistan has witnessed several heat waves since May, with temperatures rising above 52°C (125.6°F) in the Sindh province, according to the Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD).
The province has received less rains so far this year, compared to other parts of Pakistan, while residents complain of humid weather making the weather even hotter for them.
On Tuesday, Edhi Foundation, Pakistan’s largest charity, said it had found nine bodies in Hyderabad, the second-largest city in Sindh, suspected to have died from extreme heat, with temperatures recorded at 41°C a day earlier.
“The summer vacation are hereby extended in all public and private institutions under the administrative control of the School Education and Literacy Department till 14.8.2024 in the wake of the heatwave and expected monsoon rains,” the Sindh education department said in a notification.
Sumer vacations in Sindh schools were due to end on July 31, according to an earlier notification issued by authorities.
Deaths in Hyderabad
Earlier in the day, Mairaj Ahmed, a top Edhi Foundation official in Hyderabad, said their volunteers found nine dead bodies in the city on Monday, which was “the largest number in recent years.”
“We typically discover one or two bodies a day, but since the beginning of the heat wave, the number has often risen to three, four or even five per day,” he told Arab News.
Ali Nawaz Channa, a spokesperson of the Sindh health department, told Arab News no such deaths were recorded in Hyderabad on Monday, though the Edhi Foundation shared the details of all individuals, including their phone numbers.
“Yesterday, we found nine bodies. Today, we have found two more,” Ahmed said, adding most of the deceased were drug addicts and beggars who often stay on the streets.
“While we are not qualified to confirm that heatstroke was the cause of death, we are certain that these deaths are linked to hot weather.”
Earlier this month, Muhammad Amin, an Edhi Foundation official in Karachi, told Arab News that hundreds of people were brought to the charity organization’s morgues who had possibly died of hot weather.
“We have received 1,309 dead bodies since June 19,” Amin said, though he was unable to confirm if all the bodies belonged to people who had lost their lives due to heat wave complications.
The Sindh health department has reported only 45 people died of heatstroke, though 3,338 people experienced it across the province in the ongoing summer season.
The health department has not shared data on heatstroke cases for July.
Rain and flash flood forecast
On Sunday, the Provincial Disaster Management Authorities (PDMA) in Sindh warned of flash floods in the province amid a forecast of heavy rains, the state-run Radio Pakistan broadcaster reported.
Rains and thunderstorms are likely to hit Sindh’s Tharparkar, Umarkot, Badin, Mirpurkhas, Sanghar, Hyderabad, Tando Mohammad Khan, Tando Allah Yar, Matiari, Kambar, Shadad kot, Kashmore, Shikarpur, Jacobabad, Ghotki, Sukkur, Thatta and Sajawal districts this week.
A PDMA spokesperson urged the masses to follow the government’s instructions and take necessary precautionary measures to avoid any incident.
Pakistan is recognized as one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change effects in the world. Unusually heavy rains in June 2022 triggered flash floods in many parts of the country, killing over 1,700 people, inflicting losses of around $30 billion, and affecting at least 30 million people.