12,000 schools across Punjab province in Pakistan are set to enjoy clean and consistent electrification for 12 months of the year due to a mass solarisation project supported by Crown Agents.
In line with investment targets set by the Asian Development Bank, the project is expected to increase pupil attendance in rural areas, with a special focus on communities where female enrolment has been lowest. One condition of ADB’s results-based financing Clean Energy Fund is that at least 30% of all schools electrified should be girls’ single-sex schools.
The first phase of the solar schools programme focused on five districts across southern Punjab, which are in the bottom 40% of districts nationwide in terms of enrolment, infrastructure and gender parity . Schools in the south are far behind the North with around 70 girls enrolled for every 100 boys at primary school age.
With reliable electrification throughout the academic year, the quality of education and learning environment will radically improve. This in turn will encourage more parents to send their children to school and boost learning outcomes in south of the province.
Senior Energy Adviser Jordan Fast spent seven months leading the quality assurance and inspections components of the project from the offices of Crown Agents Pakistan-based partner Tracom Private Limited (TPL). Explaining why the project was needed, Crown Agents’ involvement and contribution to its success, Jordan says:
“The government of Punjab tapped into the $350,000,000 clean energy investment fund set up by the Asian Development Bank which primarily sets targets for getting more kids into school, especially girls.
“Geographically Punjab is rural and characterised by flat terrain and good solar resources. This means that solar power, rather than small hydro or wind, is the best renewable energy source to achieve this objective. Working with the government to identify and elaborate its requirements, we played a key role in developing the quality assurance framework and methodology that underpinned the project’s design and delivery.”
Enlisting the services of the Photovoltaic Institute Berlin (PI Berlin), Crown Agents contracted a specialist team of experts who flew to China to inspect the solar panels and inverters in the factories that produced them. Jordan says:
“We wanted to give the Punjab government the best chance of receiving solar panels that were produced to the highest standards. Sustainability is a key pillar of the project, so it is essential that the solar systems work for a long time. Contracting PI Berlin experts to inspect the panels and inverters was the most reliable way to achieve this.”
He adds: “I worked with the Punjab Energy Department, supply/install contractors and PI Berlin to define an inspection methodology covering PV panels, inverters and batteries. Working with TPL, I coordinated and quality-checked all the inspections reports and worked with the Energy Department and contractors to sign off each consignment before they were released for shipping.”
When the containers arrived at the designated central warehouses in Punjab, Crown Agents contracted TPL to verify the contents as part of the Energy Department’s process for authorising their transportation and installation across the schools.
“Before solar electrification many rural schools in Punjab received no more than 6 hours of electricity a day and from March to October daytime temperatures remain in the high 40s. This means that conditions can be tough, but solar electrification has transformed the quality of the learning environment by consistently powering fans and lights during these months.”
The Punjab Energy Department plans to electrify a further 10,000 schools, 3,000 health centres and community services. Crown Agents’ quality assurance consultancy during phase one has laid the groundwork for these future projects. Jordan concludes:
“Just like in other developing regions of the world, renewable energy will be prioritised for future development. Our aim is to promote self-sufficiency and prosperity in all the countries we work in and in Punjab the quality assurance framework we designed will make these projects better, bringing sustainable benefits to communities in the long term.”