The Pakistan Parliament: Running on the sun

Pakistan’s Parliament building. Photo credit: Hussain Kevin from Wikimedia.

By Katie Morrey

International relations between Pakistan and China have taken a leap forward in recent weeks with the Pakistani parliament building becoming the first parliament in the world to be running completely on solar power, helped by $55 million funding from China.

The venture was first announced in 2014 when the Chinese President Xi Jinping visited and addressed the parliament, officially launching the project. The solar-powered building in the country’s capital, Islamabad, was switched on in a simple ceremony by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif who said in a speech “Other institutions in private and public sector need to follow it.”

Present at the ceremony was the Chinese ambassador to Pakistan, with Prime Minister Sharif saying “This is another example of Pak-China friendship.”

The parliament solar panels are said to generate 80 megawatts (MW) of power, however, only 62 MW are thought to be needed for the building with the remaining 18 MW of power being given to the national grid.

Sharif said, “It is encouraging to note that the parliament’s solar plant will not only meet its own energy requirements, but the additional electricity will contribute to the national grid”.

This is the first building to be completely run on solar power, but not the first parliament to turn to renewable energy with the Israeli Parliament building, called the Knesset, also being partly run on solar.

This move to solar power is expected to save around $1 million a year in bills, especially as the consumption of electricity jumps over two megawatts in the summers when the house is in session. And with the average of eight hours of sunshine for 320 days of the year, switching to solar power seems to be an obvious choice.

This may be the first step to seeing more solar powered houses and infrastructures in the country as a whole, which currently suffers from rolling blackouts and power outages. A change in energy production by the country to solar power would also help the estimated 44 percent of households who are thought to not be connected to the national grid.
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