ISLAMABAD: In a rare move, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar on Monday presided over a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Energy (CCoE) on behalf of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and approved three major policies including incentives for upgradation of old oil refineries, implementation of about 20 renewable energy projects blocked for years and national electricity plan.

The CCoE is led by the prime minister and comprised seven ministers including the finance minister. The sources said Mr Dar, who remained in the headlines recently for being considered for the post of caretaker prime minister, presided over the CCoE meeting as Mr Shehbaz had some other pressing engagements. No formal statement was issued after the meeting though.

These sources said the meeting cleared all three agenda items, Renewable Energy Projects, Petroleum Refining Policy for Brownfield projects and National Electricity Plan 2023-27 as envisaged under the Indicative Generation Capacity Expansion Plan (IGCEP). Transmission System Expansion Plan (TSEP) and Competitive Trading Bilateral Contract Market (CTBCM). These sources said the decisions of the CCoE were expected to be formally ratified by the federal cabinet when it takes up a lengthy agenda item on Tuesday ahead of its dissolution.

Officials said the CCoE considered the summary put forward by Khuram Dastagir Minister for Energy, regarding approval of cheaper wind and solar electricity projects under category-III of Alternative and Renewable Energy (ARE) policy 2019. Around 20 projects of wind and solar located in Jhimpir, D.I.Khan, Gwader, Bostan, Quetta and Faisalabad had been allowed to go ahead as earlier recommended by a ministerial committee comprising Defence Minister Khwaja Asif, Human Rights Minister Riaz Pirzada, Power Minister Khurram Dastgir and Commerce Minister Naveed Qamar.

Under the policy direction, the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra) would give up-front market tariffs to these projects so that they reach financial close within the next six months and start construction. These projects’ approval will invite foreign exchange in the much-needed renewable energy sector, the meeting was informed. Pakistan has installed 1,800MW of wind and 700MW of grid solar projects only. The approval, if followed through by the caretaker and next elected government could trigger RE projects at around 5-6 cents per unit compared to LNG-based electricity exceeding 15 cents per unit.

Published in Dawn, August 8th, 2023

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