- Khawaja Asif shows rain at the end of the tunnel, says govt is doing its best to overcome situation
- Minister sweats as power shortfall touches 7,000 MW, however he promises outages-free Eid
- Says crisis intensified because nine power plants have shut down due to trips and faults caused by hot weather
- GENCO has capacity of producing almost 5,000MW of electricity but it is generating around 2,075MW only
Pleading the countrymen to pray for rainfall and expecting that using a five-letter word that starts with an “S” will “solve” the situation for the country, Federal Minister for Water and Power Khawaja Muhammad Asif on Monday apologised to the nation over prolonged electricity outages during Ramazan.
The minister’s statement has come at a time when urban areas continue to face load shedding for 12 to 14 hours while rural areas are suffering from 18 to 20 hours of power outages.
Addressing a press conference in the federal capital along with State Minister for Power Abid Sher Ali and Secretary Nargis Sethi, Asif said power shortfall had reached 7,000MW while the demand for electricity had increased up to 19,000MW.
Asif said that efforts were being made to increase electricity generation, which currently stands at 13,000 MW, while the situation would improve after rainfall which would lead to a drop in temperature.
Explaining the cause of the ministry’s failure, Asif said that the crisis had intensified because nine power plants had shut down due to trips and faults caused by the hot weather, as a result of which 1,300 MW could not be supplied to the grid stations.
The minister added that two Lahore grid stations of 1,500MW each had tripped in the past three days. One of the grid stations had been restored while the second one would be restored in a couple of days, he promised.
“Due to the faulty system we cannot bear the load of more than 15,000 MW of electricity. If the load exceeds 15,000 MW then grip stations start tripping. It may take three to four years to rectify the entire system as the circular debt is hovering around Rs 285 billion.”
Asif regretted that the nation would have to face the same situation if the weather remained hot and dry, however he promised that there would be no load shedding during the three days of Eidul Fitr.
Rashid said that the ministry had rolled up its sleeves to overcome power theft and reduce line losses besides setting up new power generation houses to curb electricity load shedding. He added that a court had been approached to contain widespread electricity thefts.
“The Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N)-led government is trying to add 6,000MW to 7,000MW of electricity within the next two to three years in the system,” he said, appealing the masses to economically use electricity in the meanwhile.
Apart from his apology to the domestic users, the minister boasted of government’s success in ensuring smooth power supply to the industrial sector in the past seven months.
POWER SITUATION HAS WORSENED:
Meanwhile, sectoral data shows that the power situation worsened over the past one year as the power generation is now stuck at exactly where it was a year ago (around 14,500MW), but the demand increased by around 800MW, widening the gap between demand and supply and leading to an increase in load shedding.
According to the system, demand-supply data prepared by Pakistan Electric Power Company (PEPCO), the country on an average generated 14,424MW in July last year against the demand of 18,884MW, showing a gap of 4,460MW.
The peak demand-supply situation was slightly different. During 6pm to 11pm the total demand touched 20,012MW on July 30 and generation went up 16,170MW on that particular day. Otherwise, the generation remained well below 15,500MW throughout the month. The highest shortfall for the month was recorded on July 6 when it rose to 6,553MW — generation plummeted to 12,618MW against demand of 19,171MW.
During this year’s July so far, the maximum demand has touched 20,815MW and peak generation around 14,539MW, a deficit of around 6,276MW.
One should not forget that the government had just cleared the entire circular debt a year before July and there were no system constraints. Every machine was running to its capacity. Now the circular debt has reared its head. Fuel supplies have been squeezed; the sector is getting around 22,000 tons furnace oil against total the demand of around 36,000 tons. So, the situation is bound to worsen.
UNDERUTILISATION OF INSTALLED UNITS:
While Prime Minister Sharif has inaugurated three power projects, GENCO Holding Company Limited (GHCL), the power generation arm of the Ministry of Water & Power already has the capacity of producing almost 5,000MW of electricity but it is generating around 2,075MW, miserably failing to utilize the capacity of its existing power plants.
The Guddu Power Plant, which has an installed capacity of 1,600MW has been non-operational for the last six months in spite of millions of dollars being spent on its up-gradation. The 747MW Guddu power went offline because its contractor has refused to risk premature running of the plant.
Same was the situation at 421MW Uch-I which still does not have transmission line to distribute power although the government’s media campaign led everyone to believe that it was in the system. Both plants at Uch with total capacity of 835MW are available, but cannot transmit power; either one of them is switched off or Guddu is taken offline to supply power from that area.
The Uch-2 powerhouse was also started and got inaugurated by Sharif without installing the transmission line to transmit electricity. Another reason hampering the generation from Uch-2 is the non-availability of purified gas.
Uch-1 of 421MW and Uch-2 of 401MW should have generated 800MW at least, but they are not producing the required electricity just on account of non-availability of transmission lines.
GENCO’s Muzaffargarh units have the capacity to produce 1,400MW of electricity yet they are generating only 900MW. Similarly, the units at Jamshoro can produce 880MW of power yet only 280MW are being generated from there even though the government managed to get USAID funding of millions of dollars for its revamping.
The plants at Lakhra have a capacity of 310MW yet they are producing only 150MW. The situation at GENCO’s units at Kotri and Faisalabad is not different – both plants have an installed capacity of producing almost 200MW and 140MW of power, respectively.
The government prematurely inaugurated the Nandipur plant and launched a media campaign that 425MW plant has been added to the system. Within days, the plant went offline because its basics were not put in place. It was originally designed for furnace oil, but was being run on diesel. Managers at the plant refused to run it permanently on High Speed Diesel, which upped per unit cost to more than Rs 22 making it high infeasible.