IN a laudable decision, the Punjab government has decided to run all Basic Health Units on solar energy. At a signing ceremony in Lahore, the provincial government’s health minister, Dr Yasmin Rashid, told reporters that BHUs in Sargodha, Jhelum and Mandi Bahauddin would be converted to solar to eventually be followed up by all other BHUs around the province. The project will not only save money in the long run for the health department by reducing their power bills, but also aid in providing continuous power to the BHUs. But more importantly, it is a step in the right direction to catalyse the solar revolution in Pakistan that is still slow in taking off compared to the rest of the world.

Government departments can play a critical role in pushing the solar revolution along by shifting their own consumption to renewable, point-of-consumption sources. This will not only create more demand for solar technology in the country, but also provide an impetus to others to follow. Every new solar installation, especially in a location where it enjoys high public visibility, has a demonstration effect and plays a role in helping to mainstream solar power in the eyes of the public. Other government departments in Punjab, as well as the other provinces, should follow suit and shift more and more of their premises towards solar technology like the health department in Punjab has done. Eventually, the provincial assemblies can also be shifted to solar, and provincial regulations could be designed to encourage fuel pumps to introduce the technology on their premises too. These kinds of initiatives will help power the solar revolution in critical ways. Since many of these departments work mostly during daylight hours it makes their transition to solar more viable. Commercial and government establishments have to lead the way in pushing this revolution along in Pakistan, and the Punjab government has shown the way forward with this initiative.

Published in Dawn, February 5th, 2021

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