I was recently in Antalya, Turkey, and I was surprised to see that all houses and apartments were heating the water using solar heaters on their rooftops. This can be an excellent idea for Pakistan, as most of the country receives almost uninterrupted sunlight (1700-2100 kWh/m2 per year or 4.7-6.2 kWh/m2 per day) year round .
Considering that currently we use gas in the cities (wood and other heating sources in the villages) for most of our heating purposes, this is a good opportunity to decrease our dependence on this fossil fuel. This will also help ease the natural gas shortages the country has been facing recently.
I decided to do some research on the topic, and discovered that some work is already being done on solar heating in Pakistan. Here is a presentation from Dr. Irshad Ahmed of the Alternative Energy Development Board (AEDB). A lot of the introductory information seems to have come from the US. Dept. of Energy website, which makes me wonder if the AEDB is actively promoting importing these systems from the US. That would be a big mistake since Chinese Solar Water Heating Systems are up to 80% cheaper than the European or US made systems.
Scroll down the presentation to the last page, which lists the manufacturers currently providing these systems in Pakistan. Although they have been listed as manufacturers, I wonder if these companies are only importers of the systems. After all, the cheapest system they have advertised is Rs. 18000 for a 100L system. On the other hand, an online search revealed Chinese solar water heating systems for as low as $50 (~Rs. 4300). Even if we assume these numbers are too low and unreliable, the next retailer has a solar water system of 100L for $88 (Rs. 7500).
In my online search today, I came across many articles in which the Pakistani government has said repeatedly in the last year that they plan to promote solar water heaters actively, and that they also plan to ban gas geysers in the near future. The government officials have said that the solar water heating systems cost 2.5 times more than a gas geyser system, but that the customers will get their money back in 2.5 years in saved gas costs.
My question to the government is this: The cheapest price I have seen for a normal Pakistani gas geyser online is $150 (~Rs. 13000), and for the new instant gas geysers about $67 (~Rs. Rs. 5700). This means that prices of the Chinese solar heating systems are very competitive with the existing gas geyser systems being sold in Pakistan. So then, why are the costs of the cheapest solar water heaters Rs. 18000 in Pakistan, when systems for as low as Rs. 4300 (or Rs. 7500 to be on the safe side) are available from China? If the government actively wants to promote the use of solar water heaters in the country, to reduce natural gas usage and to promote alternative energy, then it must promote the system that is the cheapest available in the world (as long as it is also reliable) so that the Pakistani people are more willing to adopt it. The price of these systems will directly determine their rate of adoption in the country. A system costing Rs. 18000 is not within the reach of many of our people, while a system costing Rs. 4300 would almost guarantee the success of this new venture in Pakistan.