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ISLAMABAD: The implementation of the Sindh solar energy project funded by the World Bank remains delayed with the corresponding slow rate of disbursement under the project.

Official documents revealed that the bank has disbursed $21.83 million, ie, 23 percent of the total $100 million so far and the overall implementation progress remains moderately unsatisfactory.

The project was approved by the World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors on June 14, 2018, and became effective on January 9, 2019. The first disbursement was made into the designated account in September 2019, but due to significant delays in implementation (including as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and related restrictions), the project is significantly behind its implementation schedule with tangible results under just one of the four components.

The project closing date has therefore been extended to July 31, 2025, allowing additional time for implementation and achievement of the targeted project results. Under Component 1 there is limited on-the-ground progress to report, but competitive bidding is expected to be initiated soon for three sites through three separate Request for Proposals (RFPs). The Requests for Proposals (RFPs) for all three sites are currently with the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA) for approval.

There has been further progress made by SED under Component 2, with the commissioning of 29 sites (16.39 MW) for the installation of solar power on the rooftops of public hospitals. Four completed sites remain to be commissioned, along with a water pumping station at Jacobabad.

A second round of installations representing up to 10 MW of solar capacity on and around other public buildings in Sindh is underway, out of savings generated in the procurement for about 22 MW already completed or nearing completion. Further, rounds of procurement are currently in the planning stage.

Discussions have also been held to put in place contractual arrangements for operations and maintenance. Under Component 3, sales and installations of solar home systems (SHS) have stalled since initial sales were made in late 2021 and 2022, with 322 SHS sold.

Unfortunately, progress under this component was further impacted by the severe floods in the summer of 2022 and the import restrictions imposed by the federal government.

As a result, it has been agreed to redesign this component and to adopt a “bulk procurement” approach, the initial procurement for which is currently underway. There has been limited implementation under Component 4. Training of 300 solar technicians has been completed.

Overall implementation progress remains delayed with the corresponding slow rate of disbursement under the project. SED has agreed on a set of actions to accelerate implementation. SED has obtained approval for a revised PC-1 that seeks to reallocate funds among components, formalise the change of design for Component 3, and introduce measures to facilitate smoother implementation, documents revealed.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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