Punjab chief minister Shahbaz Sharif, in his speech on July 31, 2013, announced various plans to overcome the energy crisis, including building Quaid-e-Azam Solar Park in Cholistan, a desert area on 10,000 acres of land in south Punjab.
Pakistan has been facing a severe energy crisis and electricity shortages for the past several years. The previous government led by the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) started planning various energy generation projects, as well as exploring alternate energy resources including solar energy. Those projects were delayed. The Solar Park was also planned at that time, but never executed. Shahbaz Sharif, during his previous tenure in the province of Punjab, pledged to execute this project if his party won the central government in the 2013 elections.
The plan is to set up solar energy generation units with local and foreign firms and investments, especially Chinese, to build the Cholistan solar park and generate at least 500 Megawatt of power. The power so generated will be connected to the country’s national electricity distribution system. The initial work has already been started for setting up Quaid-e-Azam Solar Park and the necessary approval for establishing an autonomous company has also been accorded. The park is being set up on 10,000 acres of land in Cholistan where various foreign companies will build their plants. An agreement was signed, during the aforementioned energy conference, between the Punjab government and a Chinese company, TBEA, for cooperation in the energy sector. Under the agreement, the Chinese company will set up a 1,000 megawatt solar plant in Cholistan.
The chief engineer of the Punjab government’s energy Department said that the foundation stone of the Quaid-e-Azam Solar Park would be laid shortly by the Punjab government and tha the infrastructure development design of the said Park is underway. “In the beginning we have to get all respective land in the area. Then a canal will also be dug towards the site to provide water followed by construction of roads”, he mentioned. The chief engineer said that, according to the set targets, the government would be able to generate at least 350 megawatts of solar electricity by mid-2014. He said that the department would also prepare a financial model with comprehensive recommendations regarding all phases, from launching the project to its completion. An agreement had also been signed between the Punjab government and a prominent Chinese company in energy sector, ZTE, for cooperation in setting up the solar power plant. Under that agreement, the Chinese company would set up a 500 megawatt solar power plant. Initially, the Chinese company would establish a 300 megawatt solar power plant, which would later be expanded to the capacity of 500 megawatts.
Truth Tracker finds the PML-N promise of setting up Solar Park in Cholistan by 2015 as underway.