INTERVIEW WITH MR MUHAMMAD ZAID AZAM, MD SARA SOLAR (PVT) LTD

KHALIL AHMED
(feedback@pgeconomist.com)

Sep 3 - 9, 20
12

PROFILE:

Muhammad Zaid Azam did his Bachelors in Business Administration from the Institute of Business Adminstration (IBA) Karachi. Having a family background of business , he saw an opportunity in the field of Alternate Energy, and decided to start Pakistan's first Solar Solutions Manufacturing Company. With immense support from his father, Mr Muhammad Azam, the CEO of Sara Corporation, Pakistan's Premier textile manufacturing concern, Mr Zaid transformed his idea into reality and set up Sara Solar Pvt Ltd. Sara Solar has a manufacturing capacity of 30MW per year and plans to increase it to 100 MW by the end of next year. The whole concept behind Sara Solar is to provide efficient and cost Effective solar energy solutions to the people of Pakistan. Sara Solar's dream is to rid Pakistan of its energy crisis and assist our beloved motherland towards prosperity.

PAGE: HOW WOULD YOU COMMENT ON ENERGY REQUIREMENT IN PAKISTAN?

MUHAMMAD ZAID AZAM: The energy shortfall in Pakistan peaks at a staggering 6000 MW which is roughly 30% of our energy requirement. A detailed analysis shows that the agricultural tubewells constitute roughly 35% of the total energy requirement of the country. The rest is evenly shared by Industrial and domestic consumers. The Industries circumvent the lack of electricity by going towards self generation, but domestic consumers cannot go through this route due to economic factors. Due to the escalating oil and gas prices, and the non availability of Natural Gas even self power generation by Industries is facing severe problems. This in turn results in reduction of the industrial backbone of the economy. A source of energy is required which may reduce the dependency on fossil fuels, and also is environmental friendly. Hydel is a very good choice but due to political, economic and social factors, we see the share of hydel power going down every year. Renewable energy sources such as solar and wind are the answer to our power woes. Solar is highly dependable, is almost maintenance free and can be deployed in a matter of hours. For small domestic consumers, solar power is a big blessing as it reduces dependency on the grid and gives autonomy to the consumer.

PAGE: WHAT IS YOUR VIEW ON PRODUCTION OF SOLAR ENERGY IN PAKISTAN?

MUHAMMAD ZAID AZAM: Pakistan is blessed with one of the best solar resources in the world. We have immense potential for solar energy and we should utilise it to the fullest. Pakistan gets more than 350 Sunny Days in a year which is one of the highest in the world. Sadly, till now only a negligible amount of solar energy is being utilised in the country. But now we see the people are showing interest in Solar. This is also due to the fact that prices have come down more than 40% recently and solar is becoming more feasible and affordable to install.

PAGE: YOUR VIEWS ON IMPORT AND LOCAL PRODUCTION OF SOLAR ENERGY EQUIPMENT?

MUHAMMAD ZAID AZAM: The question of import versus local manufacturing always rises whenever there is a question of any technology. Granted that the imported goods are cheaper currently, but this is only due to inferior quality of the Chinese products as well as the huge export subsidies which government offers to its solar manufacturers. We should promote our local manufacturing. Apart from having national pride, we should also consider the fact that solar is a long life product. And imported goods cannot effectively give proper warranties in case of failure. Local manufacturing doesn't face these issues, as local manufacturers can be easily made to redeem the warranty in case of problems. As regards the price issue, with greater production Pakistani manufacturers can achieve economies of scale which would definitely bring the price down.

PAGE: YOUR COMMENTS ON GOVERNMENT POLICIES REGARDING SOLAR ENERGY?

MUHAMMAD ZAID AZAM: The government of Pakistan has good policies regarding the import of solar equipment, but sadly that is where the policies end. Solar is a highly capital intensive investment, and it is financially not feasible for people to invest so much from their own pockets. The interest rates are too high in our country to make any investment feasible. What the government needs to do is to offer subsidized interest rates to the people who wish to install solar energy. Also there are effectively no green-laws in the country, countries like Germany , which have surplus power , are going solar. Germany has a law that all new buildings will have to generate 30% of its energy requirement from renewable energy sources. Pakistan needs to have such laws, because frankly speaking we need such laws due to the immense shortfall. It is really simple. We have effectively 8 hours of good quality sunlight, which is 33% of a day, our shortfall is 33% of our demand. If we install DAY ONLY solar systems we can effectively beat our energy shortfall.

PAGE: COULD YOU TELL US ABOUT LOCAL/FOREIGN INVESTMENT IN SOLAR ENERGY IN PAKISTAN?

MUHAMMAD ZAID AZAM: The solar sector is highly informal, and unorganised, but recently a Korean company announced that it will be putting up a 300 MW solar power plant in Baluchistan. I hope and pray this materializes so that the world can see that Pakistan has immense potential. Local investment is mostly in the form of import. Importers are basically traders and couple of them also offer complete integrated solutions. Pakistan currently has 2 solar manufacturers; 1) Akhtar Solar (they only make panels) 02) Sara Solar manufactures solar panels, LED lights, inverters and is currently in the process of setting up a solar cell manufacturing facility.