THIS is with reference to the article ‘Solar net metering policy discontent’ (May 13). The incumbent government had taken the telemetry initiative to encourage businesses and households to shift to solar energy. Initially, there were challenges, but then telemetry emerged as the most viable solution for the consumers to have some control over the soaring electricity charges. As a result, a full-scale supply chain emerged, and consumers — both households and businesses — made huge investments in telemetry and began benefiting from reduced electricity bills, while contributing cost-effective and clean energy to the national grid, saving millions in the process to the government.

All of a sudden, the policymakers seem to have decided to reverse this policy, citing completely illogical, irrational, and outrageous reasons.

The very first reason given is that the government is supposedly subsidising affluent segments of society by paying them Rs19, and in some cases Rs22, for each unit of electricity transferred to the national grid. In reality, the households are subsidising the government as it sells electricity at Rs65 per unit, while purchasing it from households at Rs19.

Furthermore, the government is unfairly treating households as if they are violating the telemetry policy by opting for solar energy. If anything, by encou- raging everyone to go for the solar option, the government itself promoted the pace of conversion.

Responsible governments worldwide are encouraging and providing meaningful incentives for households to convert to clean energy sources. In this regard successful implementations can be seen in countries like Germany, Australia and the United States, where households are encouraged to adopt solar energy systems due to numerous benefits.

At the household level, such systems can significantly reduce electricity bills, and, therefore, offer energy independence. Additionally, excess energy generated can be sold back to the grid, further offsetting costs and potentially providing an additional income stream.

On the national level, promoting solar energy reduces reliance on fossil fuels, which enhances energy security as well as reduces the risk of price fluctuations in fossil fuel markets. Diversifying the energy mix with renewables, like solar, also helps to mitigate the negative impact of climate change by reducing carbon emissions.

Governments across the world have introduced various incentives to promote solar energy adoption. For instance, Germany’s feed-in tariff scheme has guaranteed fixed payment rates for renewable energy producers, including households with solar panels, leading to a rapid increase in installations.

In the US, federal and state-level tax credits, rebates and other incentives have helped reduce upfront costs for households and businesses.

On its part, the government in Pakistan should devise a plan to subsidise the poor segments of society in their bid to switch to solar systems.

Simultaneously, the government should also consider phasing out independent power producers (IPPs) which are making a fortune owing to lack of foresight on the part of policymakers. In fact, the government should, in all fairness, bring to justice all those who were responsible for such short-sighted decision-making.

Qamar Bashir
Islamabad

Published in Dawn, June 2nd, 2024

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