ISLAMABAD - Federal Minister for Power Division Awais Khan Leghari has said that the National Electric Policy is ready and will be presented in April to the Council of Common Interests (CCI) for approval.

In his keynote address to 'Lighting Pakistan Conference on Solar Off-Grid Opportunities' here Wednesday, Awais said "National Electric Policy finalised in collaboration with provinces and stakeholders would help determine supply, demand and future sources of electricity generation."

The conference was jointly hosted by IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, Pakistan Microfinance Investment Company (PMIC), and the Alternative Energy Development Board (AEDB) highlighting the opportunities within the country's growing off-grid solar industry to help address Pakistan's critical energy deficit.

Awais Leghari said the government is set to submit National Electric Policy next month for the approval of Council of Common Interests(CCI).

"The policy will play a major role in reducing tariff, which will be based on international competitive bidding," he added.

"It is time to nurture alternate energy by making systems more efficient and less bureaucratic, hence the private sector and distribution companies must join hands to promote affordable lighting solutions in the off-grid areas", said the minister.

He said supplying electricity to off-grid areas is one of the priority areas on which work is already in progress. Leghari said that electric transmission system was improved during the tenure of the present government and efforts are required for improving distribution system as well. He said, the government has been working to reduce load-shedding for on-grid consumers.

"We are trying to ensure zero or minimum load shedding in those areas where losses are low. Off-grid solar solution is very successful in many countries and we should also adopt solar power system solutions for better results," he said.

The minister said the government can save Rs150 billion annually by switching agriculture tube wells in Balochistan to solar energy. Leghari said that there is also need to introduce solar tube wells in Southern Punjab.

In his remarks World Bank Country Director, Illango Patchamutu, said that "Over 1 billion people live without electricity around the world. We are on the right path to achieving universal access to energy by 2030, but it's vital that we do more as a group to help meet this target." The event included interactive sessions and panel discussions on the best ways to provide power to users.

Amjad Ali Awan, CEO of AEDB, said: "We can create major transformations in such communities by deploying off-grid renewable energy in their backyards. Solar lighting solutions provide an affordable and sustainable way of providing access to electricity for millions of people."

Nadeem Siddiqui, IFC's Country Manager for Pakistan, highlighted the importance of "engaging the private sector to help reduce the energy access gap, which presents a large and attractive business opportunity until now overlooked in Pakistan."

Yasir Ashfaq, CEO of PMIC, said the company was committed to delivering sustainable financial services. "Providing solar home solutions to people at the bottom of the pyramid is our priority. We are confident our partnership with KfW- a German government-owned development bank and IFC on solar solutions will help resolve some of the problems resulting from the lack of energy access, and boost economic and social inclusion for marginalized Pakistanis."

The conference also emphasized the need for key stakeholders to work together to maximize impact, and the importance of technology to reach remote rural communities with no access to electricity.