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Chinese solar power firm helps ease an energy crisis in Pakistan

Gao Xin knew little about Pakistan before he arrived there in April, only that the country enjoyed a close relationship with China and that it faced internal and external issues such as security and overcrowding.

“My friends and family have asked me to take care, in terms of personal safety and the hot weather, but they know it’s a good experience for me, for my career,” he said. “My parents support my decision to be here.”

The 28-year-old, from Benxi city in the north-eastern province of Liaoning, had only been abroad once before. “I have a master’s degree from Aston University (in the West Midlands) and travelled a lot while I was in the UK.”

Gao works for TBEA Xinjiang SunOasis Co, a Chinese company that completed the first energy project of the $46 billion (£30 billion) China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.

The CPEC has been identified as a key part of the Belt and Road Initiative, which refers to the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road first proposed by President Xi Jinping in 2013.

Under the initiative, China aims to support partner countries along the routes in developing infrastructure and improve its connectivity with Central Asia, the Middle East and Europe.

Pakistan is the link between the belt and the road, and TBEA’s work in Pakistan has taken it to Bahawalpur, which is in the Punjab province.

The former princely state was already home to royal palaces, historic forts and hundreds of archaeological sites, some dating back thousands of years to the Indus Valley Civilisation.

The latest addition to the landscape was the Quaid-e-Azam Solar Park, a 6,498-acre site in the Cholistan desert named after the founder of Pakistan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah.

TBEA built the world’s largest single solar photovoltaic power plant in three months. The 100-megawatt facility, which stretches across an area of 568 acres, had a total cost of $215 million and is the initial phase of the vast renewable energy project.

The plant has already generated 39 million kilowatt-hours of energy for the Punjab, Hou Peng, TBEA’s director of international business, said in an interview with the Global Times, and it was connected to the grid in late March.

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif inaugurated the plant on May 5.

The country’s energy supplies have not met demand and power cuts have disrupted every aspect of daily life, including healthcare, manufacturing and education. They have deterred investors and damaged the economy, taking up to $9.2 billion off the country’s annual GDP

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