ISLAMABAD  -  Pakistanis, using a mix of technologies to light their homes and businesses in view of power shortage, spend an estimated US $ 2.3 billion a year on everything from candles, to kerosene lamps, to battery-powered torches.

The power shortfall has upset routine life of Pakistanis and also hampered economic development and job creation across the country. But now some serious attempts of authorities are being witnessed to enhance power production in order to meet the shortage.

The energy crisis controlling is the top priority of government through different programmes to ease burden on national grid and help millions of people access lighting, a senior government official said.

The official especially mentioned a Lighting Pakistan Programme launched by IFC, a member of World Bank Group to help provide safe, affordable, high quality lighting to more than 1.5 million Pakistanis by 2018.

The programme works directly with lighting manufacturers, supporting solar-powered products that meet these standards by connecting potential partners including microfinance institutions, and investing in consumer education to raise awareness about solar technology. It will also help raise awareness amongst the households about alternatives including quality solar-powered lighting products.

Programme Manager of Lighting Pakistan, Liam Grealish on Sunday said the programme aims to reach 1.5 million people and is part of our strategy to promote inclusive electrification in Pakistan. It is an important part of our broader approach of targeted interventions in power sector.

The programme is also part of IFC's wider strategy to reduce greenhouse emissions and boost clean energy projects.

Besides launching a programme, the IFC has also conducted a Pakistan Off-Grid Lighting Consumer Perceptions Study which underscores power challenge facing Pakistan. Based on interviews with over 6,000 Pakistani households, the report shows that most of Pakistani households rely on an expensive and low-quality mix of battery powered torches, kerosene, and candles that do not meet their lighting needs and burns a hole in their pockets.

The study explores potential of another option - solar-powered lighting and through a combination of market research and household surveys. Right now, only about 4 per cent of Pakistani households tap into solar power and there are several barriers to its widespread adoption. These include a lack of consumer awareness, limited supply chains, and a shortage of consumer financing which is key given the relatively high up-front cost of some solar products.

Most importantly, this study finds there is a tremendous opportunity for industry players that can deliver high-quality, cost-effective products to consumers. The market is both massive and largely untapped, presenting an excellent opportunity for first movers.

Enumerating the objectives, IFC's Country Manager in Pakistan, Nadeem Siddiqui said the Study was conducted to provide insights into Pakistan lighting market for industry players and other stakeholders, including policy makers, providers of consumer finance, such as banks and Micro Finance Institutions (MFIs) as well as manufacturers of quality solar devices.

He said the report also provides recommendations for industry players looking to enter Pakistan market and achieve scale.

Based on the data, he said the need for solar-energy-based home lighting systems in Pakistan is clear, Nadeem Siddiqui said and added the Lighting Pakistan will launch a broad consumer awareness campaign to develop confidence in the benefits of off-grid solar products, while showing consumers how to identify and buy quality-assured products.

In this direction, he mentioned the Lighting Africa Programme which was launched in September 2007 with the goal to light up homes and businesses of 250 million people by 2030.

Since inception, the African market has seen 300 percent growth with more than 7.7 million people across Africa enjoying clean, affordable, solar-powered lighting.

He said solar is used by less than 4 percent of households in Pakistan and despite solar's relative affordability, the market is still in a nascent state. This represents a tremendous opportunity for development of solar lighting theoretically with over US $ 1 billion market.

Given the low base of solar penetration in Pakistan as well as the high recurrent spending by under-served households, the solar market is poised for strong growth. This growth in the market will be driven largely by two factors-increasing affordability, and the rapid strengthening of the value proposition through the development of innovative business models which better meet the needs of Pakistani consumers.

The theoretical manufacturing cost (holding performance constant) has fallen almost 25 percent since 2010 and is expected to tumble another 33 percent by 2020. The estimates suggest that the median lantern in 2020 will exhibit twice the battery life and up to five time the brightness of solar products today.

However, the quality-verified solar market would not grow simply through cost reductions over time but also requires development of strategies that are designed to overcome barriers to growth of solar market.