PESHAWAR: A United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) study has revealed that if there is a short, fixed schedule for power outages, most residents of tribal districts in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa will pay for electric supply.

The study was conducted by the UNDP with the support of the US government through US Agency for International Development (USAID) and with the technical assistance of the UNDP Merged Areas Governance Project and is part of the provincial government’s Special Emphasis Programme to increase the people’s access to electricity in tribal districts, according to statement issued here.

It added that the exercise was meant to assess the tribal residents’ willingness to pay for electricity amid its supply for around four hours daily at the moment.

According to the study, 88 per cent of the respondents had access to electricity infrastructure but didn’t have power supply.

Provincial government’s exemption for merged districts to end next year

It added that the people connected to the grid didn’t receive electric bills signifying the need for establishing a proper billing system and increasing the ground presence of the transmission and distribution sector to help them get accustomed to paying for electricity.

The provincial government’s exemption for the residents of tribal districts to pay power bills will end next year.

The research also revealed that most respondents preferred schemes under which solar panels would be installed in their villages, indicating that off-grid energy solutions might prove cost- as well as energy-efficient in the long run.

Acting director of the USAID Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Rachel Grant said the US government had been a proud partner of the government of Pakistan in the energy sector since 1960s.

“We are committed to working with the KP government and development partners to address power crisis,” she said.

UNDP Pakistan resident representative Knut Ostby said the research suggested a possible way forward both for reliably providing the people of tribal districts with electricity and for connecting some of the most marginalised communities.

“The proposed system aims for electric supply is not only reliable but also affordable.”

Additional chief secretary Shahab Ali Shah reiterated the provincial government’s commitment to ensuring every rupee spent under the Accelerated Implementation Programme makes the maximum impact in transforming the lives of people in the tribal region and quoting the research.

He said solar energy was far more accessible in tribal districts than grid electricity.

“This speaks volumes about the next generation of solutions we should be planning to employ,” he said.

Published in Dawn, October 21st, 2022

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