Since assuming the charge as Minister for Energy in Punjab, I have emphasised on the generation of cheap, clean and environment-friendly energy. I believe that the road towards our economic independence and prosperity passes through it. We, at the Punjab Energy Department, are working hard towards achieving this goal. Execution of the Naya Pakistan Solarisation Project and Solar-Biogas Hybrid Pilot Project in a short span of two years by the energy department are the first two steps towards a thousand-mile race.

The Solar Biogas Hybrid Pilot Project at Vehari and Samundari will provide cheap electricity and gas for cooking to some 600 households. Both projects will generate 550KW of electricity and will be game changers for small villages energy needs. The projects are almost complete and will be inaugurated in October this year. This model will be replicated in other small villages of Punjab to make them self-reliant by using their indigenous resources for their energy needs.

The Naya Pakistan Solarisation Project will provide uninterrupted electricity supply to some 15000 primary schools including 30 percent schools for girls mostly in Southern Punjab. That means, higher literacy rate, congenial environment for studies and decrease in drop out ratio. Approximately, 1.5 million students will benefit from it. The project will add 29 MW clean, green and cheap electricity into the national grid. The very thought of providing a source of energy that would ultimately enlighten young minds is quite gratifying.

The project is supported by the Asian Development Bank (ADB). The bank had approved a Disbursement Link Indicators (DLIs) based loan of US$ 83.69 million under the ‘Access to Clean Energy Investment Programme’ during the previous regime but there was no progress on it. Right after taking charge of the department, I took it out of cold storage, fast tracked it and put it on speedy execution.

As I write these lines, 7227 schools have been provided with the solar power facility, including the installation of energy efficient fans and light bulbs. In the first phase, we are determined to convert some 10,861 primary schools by the end this year. A priority has been given to schools located in off-grid areas including some 1794 of those schools that have never had access to electricity during the last 73 years.

The second phase will involve solarisation of another 4500 schools for the rest of northern and central Punjab. Similarly, over 2400 Basic Health Units (BHUs) from all over the province will also be converted into Hybrid Solar PV systems. The latter would benefit 168,000 patients every day over the year. The conversion of public sector universities, colleges, hospitals and other public sector buildings on solar energy is also under process.

We plan to convert 60 public sector universities in Punjab on a fast-track basis. MoUs with 16 universities in this regard have been signed and the groundbreaking ceremony of converting the University of Engineering and Technology, Lahore has been performed last month. Meanwhile, THQ, Teaching Hospital DG Khan and Government Comprehensive High School Gujranwala have also been solarised.

In the end, I strongly believe that a people’s government must work for the betterment of its people and not for vested interests. No doubt, our first two years in office have been challenging on many counts but as they say, “difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations”. The course has been set for a better Pakistan. A Naya Pakistan.