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China Daily / 2021-05 / 21 / Page017

Solar energy warms bilateral relations

By CHEN HONG | China Daily | Updated: 2021-05-21 00:00

Leading Chinese conglomerate Zonergy said it will use Pakistan as an overseas base to develop as an integrated service provider of green energy in countries and regions involved in the Belt and Road Initiative.

In Pakistan, it has supplied power through an outstanding photovoltaic project, as well as created jobs and brought convenience to people's lives over the past five years.

"We plan to extend our markets from Pakistan to countries and regions in Southeast Asia, Europe and Africa step by step," said Guo Jun, president of Zonergy.

The State-owned high-tech company has developed global advantages in PV power plants, new energy smart microgrid, energy storage system, green cloud computing and biomass energy.

"All our efforts will stick to the green development philosophy, follow national strategies and serve people of the international community," Guo told China Daily.

Easing power shortage

The company's connection with Pakistan started with a $1.5 billion project.

It is the world's largest centralized utility-scale PV power plant with a combined installed capacity of 900 megawatts, which is located in Bahawalpur, eastern Pakistan's Punjab province.

As a priority energy project of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor to relieve the electricity shortage in Pakistan, the PV station began construction in the second half of 2015. Its first phase, three units of generators with an installed capacity of 100 MW each, came into commercial operation in June 2016.

It is the first power project of the corridor that connects to the national power grid of Pakistan, according to the company.

As of the end of March this year, the cumulative generation capacity of the PV station reached 2.4 billion kilowatt-hours.

This is enough to satisfy the electricity demands of more than 200,000 local households, the company figures show.

The introduction of a PV station is a boon to a country like Pakistan that lacks natural resources such as coal, oil and natural gas.

It needs to import a large number of raw materials for thermal power stations but has abundant solar resources, Guo noted.

With an electricity shortage of 5,000 MW back then, the gap severely hampered the economic and social development of Pakistan.

People's lives and professions were negatively affected, according to a report by Chinese-language newspaper China Energy News.

During the summers, electricity demand would outstrip supply because everyone would have their air-conditioning switched on. As a result, major cities in Pakistan-including the capital Islamabad and Lahore-were forced to cut electricity for five hours or more a day on average, which worsened in some remote areas.

However, the country has one of the highest amounts of solar radiation in the world.

The annual duration of sunshine can reach 3,000 hours."While keeping our PV station running stably and efficiently, we plan to accelerate the construction of the rest of the project with a combined installed capacity of 600 MW," Guo said.

The construction of the project's first phase has demonstrated the professionalism and implementation ability of the company, he added.

Located in the Cholistan desert, the project encountered all kinds of difficulties-a lack of water and power supplies, extreme weather with the highest temperature reaching more than 60 C and historically heavy rainfall-Guo recalled.

But the enormous difficulties did not delay the delivery of the project. The company innovatively used the largest strategic transport aircraft, a Condor An-124, to transport the main transformer of the PV station to meet the schedule, according to Guo.

"Our project benefited a lot from the policy incentives of both the Chinese and Pakistani governments that assist the development of new energy. The Pakistani government has mapped out a goal to raise the use of clean energy to 60 percent by 2030," he noted.

As an important project of the CPEC, a flagship program under the BRI to improve the infrastructure along the corridor, the new construction is expected to contribute to the China-Pakistan all-weather strategic partnership of cooperation, Guo said.

Besides the PV station project, Zonergy has developed a household and off-grid energy storage system especially for the Pakistani market.

So far, Zonergy has set up 22 flagship stores across Pakistan with one-stop services from equipment sales, project planning and execution to operation and maintenance services.

As Pakistan's No 1 PV brand with quality equipment and implementation ability, it has secured 30 percent of the Pakistani distributed PV market. This has helped it become the largest service provider for smart microgrids based on solar energy storage in the country, company figures reveal.

Serving the community

The massive PV power station in Pakistan has not only increased the electricity supply to the local market, but created roughly 5,000 jobs for locals since construction started, according to Zonergy.

Meanwhile, it has trained more than 100 operation and maintenance engineers to work in PV power stations. Of them, 36 with advanced technical capabilities have earned qualifications from the Pakistan Engineering Council.

Jahanzaib Saleem, a manager at the PV station, said people's quality of life has been greatly improved with the clean energy. Power cuts have been reduced to one to two hours a day in the summer now, he said.

"I feel proud to work for Zonergy, so do my family and friends," said Saleem.

"I get a desirable salary here and also the respect and trust from my colleagues and leaders."

In 2018, the company completed a wind and solar hybrid storage and power supply project, sponsored by the Asian Development Bank, in Punjab and transferred it to the local government.

Also, the company undertook a PV project in Sindh province, southeastern Pakistan, with loans from the World Bank. It is on the way to delivery, according to the company.

In 2020, Zonergy's team in Pakistan stuck to their posts to ensure the normal service of the PV station amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

"When there was extreme need of pandemic prevention materials locally, my team and I coordinated and integrated all our resources and searched for channels to fight against the pandemic with the local community," said Guo.

Eventually, Zonergy donated 2 million rupees ($13,140) in cash and materials worth 3 million rupees, which included 30,000 protective masks, 100 N95 respirators and 300 sets of medical protective clothing, to the Prime Minister's COVID-19 Pandemic Relief Fund of Pakistan.

"Our work in Pakistan has witnessed and carried on the deep friendship between the two countries," Guo said.

Zonergy has attached emphasis on building a sound relationship with local governments and residents since it took root in Pakistan, he noted. It has provided free, clean drinking water to residents in Bahawalpur, a city in Punjab province, by investing in and building drinking water purification stations, solving a long-term problem in the dry region. It also donated PV power storage and supply systems to the Bahawal Victoria Hospital in Bahawalpur, so that it can have a nonstop power supply.

With the donation, some equipment will no longer be affected by frequent power cut and can therefore be used safely.

All the measures won applause from local governments and residents, said Guo."At a time when China and Pakistan celebrate the 70th anniversary of their diplomatic relationship, Zonergy will keep to the strategy of going all out to make our projects better in Pakistan and along the BRI," Guo said.


Zonergy's centralized utility-scale PV power plant has a combined installed capacity of 900 megawatts, which is located in Bahawalpur, eastern Pakistan's Punjab province. CHINA DAILY



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