The Prime Minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif attended the official inauguration of the plant, which is the pilot project of the 1GW Quaid- e Azam Solar Park, located near Bahawalpur. It officially went into operation on April 20 during a ceremony attended by both Sharif and Chinese President, Xi Jinping.
The project has been set up through Quaid- e Azam Solar Power (Pvt.), established by the Government of Punjab, with the task of rolling out renewable energy, and specifically solar, projects in Pakistan. The government is its sole owner.
Overall, 6,500 acres of land have been dedicated to the 1 GW park, 500 of which have been taken by the 100 MW pilot plant. The Pakistani Daily Times reports that it cost Rs 15 billion (US$23.7 million).
The project’s completion comes three months after Phono Solar grid connected a 1.25 MW PV plant in the Punjab province, at the time the country’s largest, and just weeks after the Pakistani government hinstalled a one MW PV array atop the countrys Parliament House.
The country’s solar market has received a series of recent boosts, including the rolling out of a net metering program, the introduction of a funding scheme allowing homeowners to borrow against their mortgage for solar installations, and the approval of the use of grid-connected solar energy in January.
Punjab is said to be particularly ripe for solar development, owing to its high solar irradiation up to 3,000 hours of sunshine annually and favorable policies, including tax and custom duty exemptions.
According to the government, Pakistan faces a 6 GW power shortfall. As such, it has been focusing its efforts on encouraging private sector investment in power projects, including in the hydro, wind and solar power sectors.
Overall, Pakistan has been described as South Asias most investment-friendly country. To aid investment, the Government introduced a new policy in 2013 aimed at reducing business costs, streamlining processes and strengthening trade links.