Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said on Thursday that the government was working on a "comprehensive plan" for shifting to solar power in an effort to rid the country of costly electricity produced from oil and gas.
He expressed these remarks while speaking at the inauguration ceremony for the launch of the Green and Blue Lines of the Metro Bus Service in Islamabad.
"The electricity being produced in Pakistan is very costly," he lamented.
Pakistanis have been bearing the brunt of electricity blackouts, which has led to protests — some violent — as the government has been unable to procure LNG, a key input in production, due to its high cost in international markets owing to the Russia-Ukraine war.
In his speech, PM Shehbaz went on to say that the government was working on a comprehensive plan to provide cheap solar power to areas where tube wells, government buildings, hospitals, schools, buildings and households are located in an effort to rid the country of costly electricity produced from oil and gas.
"Oil and gas worth Rs20 billion is imported every year," he said, lamenting that past governments and rulers did nothing to improve Pakistan's situation.
"So there is a meeting today in which we will make decisions regarding solar power and on how to provide solar panels, loans to common households to save them from costly power bills."
He also lauded the scheme launched by his son, Punjab Chief Minister Hamza Shehbaz, in the province for providing free electricity to domestic consumers using less than 100 units, terming it a "revolutionary step".
He expressed the hope that the rest of the provinces would also take steps to benefit the people. He reiterated that a meeting on solar power would be held at a federal level.
In his speech, the premier noted that oil and gas prices across the world had skyrocketed in recent times, making the lives of millions very difficult.
"In times of such inflation, which has been ongoing for the past four years, where a common man works day and night in order to survive [...] in this context the public transport service being started today is a big step for the people of Islamabad, Rawalpindi and adjoining areas," he said.
However, the premier was of the opinion that the transport service being inaugurated today should be free for a month. "The people, who are agitated by the rise in inflation, should be able to avail this transport service for free for one month."
He also called for completing all development work for the service as soon as possible, and to compensate for the mistakes made in the past.
In a tweet later in the day, the premier said that the launch of the service was "great news" for the citizens of Islamabad and its surrounding areas.
"It’s part of our efforts to provide efficient and comfortable public transport system. It will address problems of traffic load, fuel cost and environmental hazards," he said.
'Providing cheap electricity govt's top priority'
Later in the day, the premier chaired a meeting of the Energy Task Force in Islamabad where he said that a national solar energy policy would be announced on August 1 to address power-related issues.
According to Radio Pakistan, PM Shehbaz said the enforcement of the policy would be linked to the approval of the Council of Common Interest (CII).
He reiterated the same in a tweet after the meeting, saying: "I was briefed about the key solar energy initiatives earlier today. Coalition government will soon introduce the country's first comprehensive solar policy after approval of the CCI."
He added that solar energy would drastically cut fuel imports, bring down cost of electricity and provide clean energy.
During the meeting, the prime minister said that the PM House and Office would be converted to solar energy on emergency basis in one month, the Radio Pakistan report said.
The premier said providing cheap and environmentally friendly electricity was the government's top priority.
Highlighting the benefits of solar energy, he said that it was a source of producing clean and environment-friendly power. He said the use of solar energy would help to solve problems such as distribution losses, power theft and circular debt.
The meeting was given a detailed briefing on the steps being taken for promoting solar energy in the country. The meeting was informed that a proposal to convert fuel-powered powerhouses to solar energy was under consideration.
The meeting was further informed that a proposal for generating solar energy from 2,000 feeders of 11KV was also under consideration.
The meeting was apprised solar power plants with a capacity of 1,000MW would be installed at government buildings in the next 10 years on "build, own, operate and transfer" basis.
The meeting was further informed that solarisation of tube wells would also be done in the country. In this regard, a project was under consideration to switch tube wells in Balochistan to solar energy.