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South and Central Asia: U.S.-Pakistan Clean Energy Business Opportunities Conference

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, good morning.

It is a great honor to be with you today at the U.S.-Pakistan Clean Energy Business Opportunities Conference. I understand that you had a very productive first day yesterday.

This gathering is one of the first outcomes of the U.S.-Pakistan Clean Energy Partnership, which Prime Minister Sharif and President Obama announced here in Washington in October. The Partnership is the next step in our support for Pakistan’s energy sector. Specifically, under this Partnership, we intend to promote new private sector investments in Pakistan’s clean energy generation, transmission, and distribution – helping address Pakistan’s critical energy needs and supporting Pakistan’s efforts to mitigate climate change. Thanks to you all, we are off to a great start.

As Prime Minister Sharif told the President in October, developing Pakistan’s energy sector is one of his government’s top priorities.

Over my last three years of service as the U.S. Ambassador in Islamabad, I had the opportunity to meet many of you to discuss this issue. Ultimately, I am convinced that clean energy solutions – including renewable sources like wind and solar, geothermal, hydro, and natural gas – are not just the best hope for resolving Pakistan’s energy crisis, but also for ensuring that our children can enjoy a cleaner and healthier future.

Prime Minister Sharif’s attendance this week at the COP21 conference in Paris demonstrates Pakistan’s commitment to doing its part in the global campaign to manage climate change. Clean energy is an integral part of this effort, and Pakistan’s embrace of renewables – unlocking its considerable clean energy potential – could enable it to play a leadership role on global environmental issues.

Public investment in energy infrastructure and power generation is essential, but private sector investment in this sector is crucial and we are here to facilitate such investment. The more space the private sector has to contribute in the energy sector, the more quickly the energy crisis can be resolved.

A great example of public-private partnership in Pakistan’s renewables sector is the Sapphire Group’s investment in wind power.

The 50 megawatt Sapphire wind power plant project at Jhimpir was made possible by collaboration between the Pakistani government, private sector investors, OPIC and USAID, and American and multinational companies. Private corporations from three nations came together and worked swiftly to conceptualize, construct, and complete this renewable power project ahead of schedule. After fourteen months, the power plant was completed and began commercial operations on November 23, providing critical electricity to millions of residents of Sindh Province.

We have seen other examples that highlight Pakistan’s energy sector potential for private sector investors. This is why Minister Abbassi and I led a trade delegation to Houston two years ago, which resulted in millions of dollars in deals, including importation of LNG.

Further, this past year, a U.S. company played a critical role in establishing the infrastructure that enabled Pakistan to import liquid natural gas for the first time. Another U.S. company provided the crucial component for Pakistan’s liquid natural gas-fired power plant deals – a turbine.

The focus of today’s conference will be on the tools that are available to help the private sector further unlock Pakistan’s energy potential. The Government of Pakistan, both at the federal and provincial levels, has a critical role to play in this effort. Project developers and investors seek a predictable business environment, where tariff levels are transparently notified and approval processes are timely. That is why a core component of our technical assistance will be on working with government authorities to streamline and improve the project application and approval processes.

As I have witnessed personally on the ground, and as I know my friends Minister Asif and Minister Abbasi and their teams briefed yesterday, Prime Minister Sharif’s government has taken many steps over the past two and a half years to improve the investment climate in Pakistan. Now is the moment to build on the progress that has been made by strengthening the regulatory environment and expanding the space available to the private sector in the energy sector.

Nothing speaks to U.S. companies louder than another U.S. company that has had a positive business experience in Pakistan. A number of these success stories are already contributing to Pakistan’s energy sector - more can be cultivated through the U.S.-Pakistan Clean Energy Partnership.

We hope that this conference can be a catalyst for new ideas, coming from both the public and private sector, and we can channel those into our next bilateral Energy Working Group, here in Washington in 2016.

Thank you for your attention.

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