|Power Sector Woes
by SHABBIR H. KAZMI
If the crisis is not resolved it may lead to violent demonstrations and then anarchy
According to a report by Geo News, electricity shortage in the franchise area of Pakistan Electric Power Company (PEPCO) is touching 6,000MW. Lately, electricity generation has been recorded at 9,500MW, whereas its demand is reported to be 15,500MW. In an attempt to save its face, PEPCO has been accusing PSO of not supplying adequate furnace oil. It was also reported that PSO has stopped 30,000 tons per day supply of furnace oil to the utility due to non-payment of dues. Therefore, several of the power plants have remained idle for the last several days. The point to be remembered is that PEPCO owes nearly Rs 200 billion to PSO, which is spurring the worst ever power crisis in the country.
The second point to be understood is that PEPCO has been providing the nation with incorrect figures, worst being no mention of nuclear power. Chashma-I has been operating at full capacity and Chashma-II has also started the trial run. Therefore, the cumulative supply from these two plants should be around 700 but daily reports of PEPCO never mention this at all. At the best a typical report mentions production from hydel, power plants, generation companies operating under PEPCO, independent power producers and rental power producers.
One of the recent reports from PEPCO reported shortfall at 4,355MW, total generation at 10,005MW against total demand of 14,360MW. The details about generation provided details of the generation from various sources as hydel generation at 2,250MW, thermal power plants under PEPCO at 1,561MW, IPPs at 6,084MW and Rental at 110MW. The decline in hydel generation was attributed to lower water inflows in the rivers.
Attributing reduction in hydel generation to lower water flows in rivers and dams also appear contradictory after the recent rains. Water level in dams must have gone much above the dead-level. Hydel generation at 2250MW against installed capacity of nearly 6,500MW only highlights the gross mismanagement. However, the most disappointing performance has been of the generation companies operating under the umbrella of PEPCO. The contribution by rental power plants also remains at 110MW despite the government dishing out billions of rupees.
One also fails to understand the logic of PEPCO of keeping its plants closed or operating at lower capacity to save fuel and buying more electricity from IPPs. PEPCO's record shows that contribution of IPPs has gone up to 6,000MW from an average 5,000MW. It may be correct to say that at present the country is highly dependent on them as they are supplying around 6,000MW, out of total generation of nearly 10,000MW for the time being.
However, it is necessary to mention that delay in payment to IPPs has been a cause of major concern. On top of this neither the government can ensure supply of gas nor can PSO ensure uninterrupted supply of low sulphur furnace oil for Kot Addu Power Plant. Running the plant on furnace oil containing high sulphur is ruining this plant.
Some quarters are critical of PEPCO supplying nearly 600MW electricity to the Karachi Electric Supply Company (KESC). This criticism has become more vehement at a time when Punjab is facing the worst load shedding of gas ever while the situation is quite the contrary in Sindh. It is necessary to remind all and sundry that the Honorable Sindh High Court had issued a stay order against load shedding of gas in the province. The basis of this decision was that Sindh produces around 2,200mmcfd gas and uses only half of it and other half is sent to Punjab and other parts of Pakistan.
Some of the experts say that Hub Power Company (HUBCO) was originally set up to meet Karachi's future demand. However, at that time the KESC was producing surplus electricity and exporting it to Punjab. Therefore, the policy planners thought it was more appropriate to make WAPDA the sole buyer of HUBCO. That is the reason why, for years the electricity from HUBCO was first dispatched to Jamshoro and then brought back to Karachi. Only recently a link between HUBCO and KESC was established at Saeedabad.
According to some experts electricity demand in KESC's franchised area is estimated around 5,000MW as against its dependable capacity of 1,200, excluding the latest unit added by the company. The city has survived the worst shortfall by establishing in-house power generation facilities. It is estimated that the self generation ranges from 2,500MW to 3,000MW. Hundreds of industrial units and commercial buildings are not dependent on supply from the KESC. Therefore, PEPCO is not doing any favour by supplying 600MW to KESC because Karachi has the preemptive right on the electricity generated by HUBCO.
It is heartening to note that President Asif Ali Zardari has been taking keen interest in minimising load shedding in the country in general and in Karachi in particular. At the time of closure of Bhit gas field, it was feared that curtailing gas supplies to KESC could lead up to 14 hours of electricity load shedding in its franchised areas. However, SSGC's consumers also responded positively by curtailing gas consumption voluntarily. This has also helped in ensuring least reduction in supply of gas to the KESC.
However, the recent statement of Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani was a bad reflection of his acumen. Reportedly, he said that present load shedding is due to increase in electricity demand that is a sign of improving economy. Giving him the benefit of doubt, one can say that the concerned ministries must have been providing him incorrect information.
It is on record that textiles and clothing units in Punjab, particularly Faisalabad are working hardly three days a week because of gas load shedding. Electricity load shedding is on top of this. While one does not doubt the sincerity and integrity of the Prime Minister, saying such things are a bad reflection of him as well as his government.
Dr. Asim Husain has been appointed Advisor to Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Resources, already headed by Syed Naveed Qamar. Soon after reassuming control he ordered the dismissal of the managing directors of oil and gas companies and also the dissolution of boards of directors of these companies.
While people are willing to accept his seriousness, it is also necessary to remind him that the present energy crisis is not because of the paucity of supplies but due to rampant theft, gross management and blatant assassination of good governance. It is true that thefts are done with the connivance of staff of utility companies but the prevailing situation hints towards corruption going from top to bottom.
All concerned are warned that the energy crisis is depriving people from earning bread and butter for their families. Hungry people can push the country into anarchy. They must take corrective steps before it is too late.