“I use the solar light for cooking at night. We save money because we had to buy candles and kerosene before. We also use it to charge our mobile phones.” Marvi, Yousaf Babar Village in Sindh, Pakistan
About 250 schools and 12,000 homes in Pakistani villages have so far been lit by solar lights. The program is funded by the UK's Department for International Development (DfID) to help flood-affected people in rural Sindh and Punjab.
Plan International Pakistan and the Punjab education department have rebuilt 400 schools destroyed by floods, and implemented solar panels in 250 schools that did not have electricity. In addition to the solar panel installation, the DfID funded project also provided water and sanitation, school furniture, school paper, schoolbags and uniforms, sports equipment and health education for 54,000 primary school children.
The solar lights cost about $15 each and give sustainable, free light for up to 10 hours after each charge, and can last for up to five years. The cost is recouped within a couple of months, providing excellent value for money, according to DfID sources.
The solar technology is also used for recharging mobile phones, which provide vital communication lifelines in rural areas, enabling people to keep in touch with family and community. The mobile phones are helping reunite displaced families and communities, and helping people to try to get back to a normal life.
In addition to growing number solar energy users in Pakistani villages, the city dwellers are also increasingly turning to solar to cope with frequent power cuts, and gas shortages. There is growing demand for low cost Chinese solar products such as solar street lights, solar garden lights, solar generators, solar heaters, solar water heaters and solar water collectors for industry, according to a report in Pakistan's Express Tribune newspaper. Many consumers told ET they prefer solar over UPS (un-interruptible power supplies) and diesel or gas generators.
“Sales of solar energy panels have increased about 40 per cent compared to winter of last year. Sunshine in Pakistan remains for approximately 10 hours a day, which is enough to produce 1,000 watts per square meter. Producing electricity from the sun is very easy,” the paper quotes Tariq Nurani, a solar products dealer, as saying.
The Express Tribune story also features Khawaja Cotton Industries CEO Muhammad Amjad Khawaja who said he invested Rs 5 million for solar water boilers which helped deal with increasing gas load shedding in the textile manufacturing sector.
The rapid cost declines and increasing availability of solar equipment are enabling energy-starved but resilient Pakistanis to cope with the twin shortages of gas and electricity.