What Is The Potential Of Solar Power In Pakistan?

Pakistan faces severe energy shortages with nearly 60% of the population lacking access to electricity. The country has turned to expensive and dirty fossil fuels to try to meet demand, but still suffers from regular power outages. With a growing population and economy, Pakistan’s energy needs are projected to double in the next decade.

To address this crisis, Pakistan must massively scale up investment in renewable energy sources like solar power. Pakistan is blessed with abundant solar resources, receiving more than 300 days of sunshine per year in most of the country. Harnessing just a fraction of this potential could meet a significant portion of Pakistan’s energy demand in a clean and cost-effective manner.

This article explores the prospects and challenges for scaling up solar power in Pakistan. With supportive policies, solar power can create jobs, reduce harmful emissions, and deliver economical and reliable electricity across the country.

Solar Irradiation Levels

Pakistan is blessed with some of the highest levels of solar irradiation in the world. The country receives between 1,700 to 2,200 kWh of solar irradiation per square meter per year. In comparison, the global average is around 1,000 to 1,500 kWh per square meter per year. The highest solar irradiation levels are found in Sindh and Balochistan, which receive up to 2,200 kWh/m2 annually. Given its high solar resource potential, Pakistan holds tremendous promise for solar power generation.

Current Solar Energy Capacity

Pakistan has seen steady growth in solar energy capacity over the last decade. As of 2022, the total installed solar energy capacity is estimated to be around 1,500 MW. This includes:

  • Residential rooftop solar capacity of around 400 MW
  • Commercial and industrial rooftop solar capacity of around 500 MW
  • Utility-scale solar farms totaling 600 MW

The majority of the rooftop solar capacity comes from homes, businesses and factories installing solar panels to offset daytime electricity usage. Rooftop solar adoption has accelerated in recent years due to rising electricity prices and improved economics of solar power. The utility-scale solar farms are large centralized solar projects built by private developers and approved by the government. These large solar parks are feeding power directly into the national grid.

Potential for Rooftop Solar

Pakistan has tremendous potential to deploy solar panels on the rooftops of residential and commercial buildings. With over 60 million households in the country, rooftop solar systems could provide clean, renewable electricity to millions of families and businesses. One estimate suggests Pakistan has the potential for over 2,900 megawatts of rooftop solar capacity. This is roughly equivalent to several large solar farms. By installing solar panels on existing rooftops, this capacity could be harnessed without using additional land. Rooftop solar provides households and businesses the opportunity to generate their own electricity, reducing reliance on the grid. The upfront cost of rooftop solar has fallen dramatically in recent years, making it more affordable. With the high levels of sunshine Pakistan receives, the payback period can be under 5 years in many regions. Rooftop solar also reduces daytime electricity demand on the grid during peak hours. With appropriate net metering policies, surplus solar power can even be fed back into the grid. Overall, rooftop solar represents a major untapped resource for clean energy generation in Pakistan’s cities and towns.

Utility-Scale Solar Potential

Pakistan has significant potential for developing large, utility-scale solar parks due to the availability of vast tracts of arid land in the southern provinces of Sindh and Punjab. These flat, undeveloped areas receive abundant sunlight throughout the year and are well-suited for constructing large-scale photovoltaic solar parks. While most urban rooftops and agricultural land are likely already in use, Pakistan has unused desert land that can generate many gigawatts of solar power.

According to one estimate, if just 1% of Pakistan’s land area was covered in solar panels, it could generate 100 times more electricity than the country’s total current installed capacity. Sindh province alone could accommodate solar parks with capacity exceeding 50 gigawatts. Developing even a fraction of this potential could allow Pakistan to meet all its projected electricity demand growth for decades to come through solar energy. Overall, Pakistan likely has the potential for over 100 gigawatts of utility-scale solar power generation. Converting just 3% of available desert land into solar farms can potentially meet the entire country’s current electricity demand.

Solar Policy and Incentives

The government of Pakistan has implemented several policies and initiatives to promote solar energy adoption in the country. Key solar policies and incentives include:

In 2015, the Alternative and Renewable Energy Policy was approved which aims to increase renewable energy capacity to 30% of total generation capacity by 2030. This includes a target of 9.7 GW of solar energy capacity by 2030.

Import duties and sales tax on the import of solar panels and related equipment have been removed to make solar more affordable.

Net metering regulations were passed in 2015 which allow solar system owners to sell excess electricity back to the grid. This makes rooftop solar financially viable.

The government approved feed-in tariffs for utility-scale solar projects to encourage investment by providing guaranteed pricing for the electricity generated.

The State Bank of Pakistan launched renewable energy financing schemes to provide subsidized loans and financing options for residential and commercial solar installations.

The Alternate Energy Development Board (AEDB) has supported the deployment of several large solar parks across Pakistan through public-private partnerships.

The government aims to provide electrification in rural areas through off-grid solar solutions under the Prime Minister’s Access to Clean Energy Program.

Cost Competitiveness

Pakistan has among the lowest electricity tariffs in the world, largely due to government subsidies for conventional energy. However, the costs of solar energy have declined rapidly in recent years, making it more cost competitive.

The average global cost of solar PV declined by about 90% from 2010 to 2020, and is now cheaper than new coal and gas plants. In Pakistan, recent solar power projects have achieved tariffs as low as 2.6 cents/kWh, which is lower than the cost of new coal and only slightly higher than the average electricity tariff.

With its excellent solar resources, Pakistan can generate solar power at costs even lower than other countries in the coming years. If Pakistani solar tariffs reach 2 cents/kWh or below, solar power will undercut even the variable cost of existing coal and gas plants.

Given the ever-decreasing costs of solar power, and the rising and volatile costs of imported fossil fuels, solar energy is set to become the cheapest form of new electricity capacity in Pakistan within the next few years.

Job Creation Potential

Solar energy expansion has a great deal of potential to create green jobs and new business opportunities in Pakistan. According to industry estimates, meeting Pakistan’s solar goals by 2030 could create over 200,000 direct jobs in solar installation, operations and maintenance. Many more indirect jobs would also be created along the solar supply chain, from manufacturing to sales and marketing.

Pakistan’s domestic solar industry is still relatively small, but has been growing rapidly in recent years. Increased adoption of rooftop and utility-scale solar projects creates opportunities for new solar companies as well as traditional construction and engineering firms. Installing solar panels across homes, businesses and farms also has the benefit of creating many semi-skilled or low-skilled jobs accessible to workers with minimal training. Numerous business models are emerging around solar system sales, financing and service contracts. Entrepreneurs are finding ways to make solar profitable while expanding energy access.

The skills, manufacturing base and expertise developed domestically can also enable Pakistani solar firms to export products and services abroad. With thoughtful policies and training programs, the solar industry can become an engine for broad-based employment growth while delivering economical and sustainable energy.

Environmental Benefits

Pakistan is one of the most heavily polluted countries in the world, with dense concentrations of pollutants in many urban areas. High levels of air pollution, caused by vehicles, industry, and reliance on fossil fuels for power, lead to negative health and environmental consequences. Expanding solar power generation in Pakistan would help to displace fossil fuel plants and reduce associated air pollution and carbon emissions.

Since solar PV systems do not produce air pollution or carbon emissions while operating, increased solar capacity would directly avoid emissions from fossil fuels. One estimate suggests that 1 MW of installed solar PV in Pakistan avoids over 700 tons of CO2 emissions per year compared to coal. With Pakistan’s Paris Agreement climate target to reduce projected emissions by 20% by 2030, solar power will need to play a major role in decarbonizing the energy sector.

In addition to CO2, growth in solar power would also decrease emissions of health-damaging air pollutants like particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, and sulfur dioxide. This would provide cleaner air in cities like Lahore, Karachi, and Peshawar which frequently suffer from hazardous smog. Solar power’s environmental benefits make it an essential part of Pakistan’s strategy to reduce carbon emissions and air pollution.


Despite the immense potential, solar power expansion in Pakistan faces some key challenges that need to be addressed.

One major issue is integrating large amounts of variable renewable energy into the electrical grid. As solar power fluctuates with weather and time of day, it creates challenges for grid operators to balance supply and demand. Upgrades to the grid infrastructure along with smart inverters and battery storage solutions can help smooth out solar’s variability.

The intermittency of solar power also creates the need for energy storage, but high costs have limited deployment so far. Lower battery prices and innovative storage solutions can help make solar power dispatchable 24/7.

Limited access to financing has also hindered growth, as many households and businesses cannot afford the upfront costs of solar panels. Providing low-interest loans and innovative financing models can expand access for all income levels.

Addressing these key challenges around grid integration, energy storage, and financing is crucial for solar to reach its full potential in Pakistan.

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