WASHINGTON: Richard Olson, the new US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, has assured Islamabad that the United States intends to promote new private sector investment in the country’s energy sector.

In his address to the US-Pakistan Clean Energy Business Opportunities Conference in Washington, Mr Olson emphasised the need for addressing Pakistan’s energy crisis in a fast and effective manner.

The conference was one of the first outcomes of the US-Pakistan Clean Energy Partnership, which Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and President Barack Obama announced in Washington in October.

Also read: Era of proxy wars should end in South Asia: Olson

The two-day conference focused on the tools available to help the private sector further unlock Pakistan’s energy potential.

“Under this partnership, we intend to promote new private sector investments in Pakistan’s clean energy generation, transmission, and distribution,” Mr Olson said. This would help address Pakistan’s critical energy needs and support Pakistan’s efforts to mitigate climate change, he added.

Mr Olson, who served as the US ambassador in Islamabad from Oct 31, 2012 to Nov 17, 2015, said that during his three-year stay in the country, he personally witnessed the country’s energy crisis.

“I am convinced that clean energy solutions — including renewable sources like wind and solar, geothermal, hydro, and natural gas — are not just the best hope for resolving Pakistan’s energy crisis, but also for ensuring that our children can enjoy a cleaner and healthier future,” he said.

Unlocking Pakistan’s considerable clean energy potential could enable it to play a leadership role on global environmental issues, he added.

Mr Olson noted that several US companies were now investing in clean energy projects in Pakistan and hoped that this would encourage other American investors to come forward.

He recalled that two years ago, the US and Pakistan held a trade fair in Houston, which resulted in millions of dollars in deals, including import of LNG.

“Project developers and investors seek a predictable business environment, where tariff levels are transparently notified and approval processes are timely,” he said.

The United States will continue to work with Pakistani authorities to streamline and improve the project application and approval processes, he added.

“Now is the moment to build on the progress that has been made by strengthening the regulatory environment and expanding the space available to the private sector in the energy sector,” Mr Olson said.

Mr Olson announced that the next bilateral Energy Working Group would be held in Washington in 2016.

Published in Dawn, December 4th, 2015

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