Increasing demand for solar power takes toll on generator sales

Published June 1, 2021
In rural areas, solar energy is also being used to run tube wells and water pumps, said  M. Saleem Memon, the vice-president of Karachi Electronics Dealers Association (KEDA).  — White Star/File
In rural areas, solar energy is also being used to run tube wells and water pumps, said M. Saleem Memon, the vice-president of Karachi Electronics Dealers Association (KEDA). — White Star/File

KARACHI: Import of power generating machines hit $1.4 billion in the first ten months of the ongoing fiscal year (10MFY21) from $971 million in the same period last year. However, market players contest this whopping import bill figure, attributing it to bulk import of generators for housing and government-related projects instead of household consumption.

They said increasing demand of solar power systems has badly hit the sales of small and medium-sized generators. Prices of generator have also gone up despite rising rupee value against the dollar.

However, many consumers feel the intensity of loadshedding has slowed down in the last few years and there is no need to take a costly ride by purchasing generators.

“Sales of solar power systems have gone up 80 per cent in the last two years owing to a soaring demand in rural areas where power availability is still a remote possibility,” said M. Saleem Memon, the vice-president of Karachi Electronics Dealers Association (KEDA).

Mr Memon, who also deals in alternative energy solutions, said sales of solar-powered systems are going on in urban areas but these cannot match the impressive demand in rural areas. He went on to add that in urban areas, residential and educational buildings, private offices and industries are shifting towards the alternative energy option, he said.

Claiming that the price of solar panel systems had been unchanged for the last two years, he said, 5kW and 10kW system (battery, inverter and panels) cost Rs500,000 and Rs1 million, followed by Rs100,000 and Rs200,000 for 1kW and 2kW, respectively.

In rural areas, he said solar energy is also being used to run tube wells and water pumps.

Talking to Dawn, Sikandar Shahzada, the owner of Sikandar and Co, said the boom in construction of highrise buildings, big government projects, vertical expansion in factories, etc has caused an alarming jump in import bill of power generating machines which need 20kVA to 100kVA generators.

A dealer in solar system and generators, Mr Shahzada said that in highrise projects, standby generators are a must to keep lifts moving coupled with ensuring power requirement for water pumping machines in case of power failures.

“People are fast moving towards solar power solutions since power rates and petrol/diesel prices have been going up for the last few years, while many buyers are unable to afford generators due to the rising cost of living,” he said. “Consumers are now well informed regarding affordable living choices and are opting for solar power systems whose sales are 100 per cent up compared to the last two years,” he claimed.

A 20kW solar system is considered feasible as many consumers after consuming low power transfer excess power to K-Electric under a deal for which a separate meter is installed, he explained.

The price of 20kW and 30kW solar systems is Rs1.85m and Rs2.8m, respectively, while the price of one kVA branded Chinese generator now costs Rs32,000 as against Rs26,000 some 10 months back, he said. A 2.5kVA power gadget costs Rs52,000-55,000, up by 15pc compared to price prevailing 10 months back, he added.

Mr Shahzada attributed the hike in generator prices to rising freight charges, global container shortages and soaring copper and steel prices which had offset the impact of low import cost on account of gaining rupee against the dollar in the last nine months.

In August 2020, one dollar was equivalent to Rs168.71 as compared to current inter-bank rate of Rs152-153.

Talking to Dawn, Pakistan Mach­inery Merchants Group (PMMG) President Khurram Saigal said household consumers and small and medium enterprises (SME) are reluctant to purchase generators due to a slowdown in loadshedding in the last few years. “High generator prices and consumer focus towards solar systems has hit sales of these machine. Sales to SMEs are down by 70pc in the last two years,” he claimed.

Published in Dawn, June 1st, 2021

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