Categories: National

Back to the dark ages

  • Power shortfall increases to 5,000MW owing to generation limitations, financial constraints

  • NTDC puts blame on DISCOs for ongoing spell of load shedding

  • Experts fear rising circular debt might further enhance menace of power shortfall

ISLAMABAD: Hours-long unannounced power load shedding has raised its ugly head across the country once again as the caretaker government desperately tries to overcome the power shortfall that has reportedly surged up to 5,000 megawatts (MW) owing to generation and financial constraints amid the scorching summer heat, Pakistan Today has learnt.

Sources in the power division informed Pakistan Today that power shortfall had increased from 4,000MW to 5,000MW due to the constraints currently being faced by the power sector. They said that prolonged power outages were mainly due to generation limitations while financial constraints had also contributed to the miseries of the general public in summers.

Sources further said that financial constraints had also resulted in delays in payments while the circular debt had risen to Rs566 billion and supply of furnace oil to power plants had also been affected.

“Power generation constraints include use of furnace oil in power plants, low utilisation of power generation capacity of the plants and minimal use of Re-gasified Liquefied Natural Gas (RLNG),” they said.

A senior official of the power division, on the condition of anonymity, said that power shortfall had surged to 3,166MW as the total demand of power distributing companies (DISCOs) on Saturday morning was 19,476MW, while DISCOs drawl was 16,310MW and NPCC allocation was 17,810MW on the same day. The official also said that there were generation issues coupled with financial woes of the power sector, which had been resulting in power cuts across the country.

“Old and outdated power transmission equipment and distribution network of electricity is no exception as it is also contributing to the tripping and low voltage issues besides power breakdown,” he added.

While the officials say the overall shortfall has exceeded 3,000MW, sources privy to the situation said the power cuts to the consumers hovered between 4,000MW and 5,000MW including transformational, transmission and distribution losses, as well as the non-withdrawal of power by distribution companies. “The network operators had to resort to forced load shedding to avoid system collapse,” they said.

It merits mention here that the current situation of power shortfall comes just weeks after the outgoing government of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) made tall claims of overcoming the power shortage and hours-long power load shedding, during its electioneering.

Different parts of the country are suffering from unannounced and prolonged electricity outages and there is a growing apprehension that the ordeal of the consumers would be added to during September. With water supply also being disrupted as a result of the power outages in major parts of the country, the life of a common man has become nothing less than a nightmare. Routine and business activities across the country have also taken a major blow.

The power supply situation is so erratic that the general public has not even been able to use their domestic appliances, which often break down when power returns. Load shedding has been increased to two or three hours-long spells, badly affecting the output of small traders, many of whom say they cannot afford the losses.

NTDC BLAMES DISCOS FOR ONGOING SPELL OF POWER OUTAGE:

Meanwhile, an official of the National Transmission and Dispatch Company (NTDC) said the NTDC network was functional and was not facing any faults. They said the 200 and 500 kilowatts (KW) networks of the company were fully working and transmitting the provided electricity to the DISCOs network. They said the ongoing load shedding was due to the DISCOs’ constraints; however, they admitted that the old transmission system/network of NTDC had also been causing problems in the smooth supply of electricity to DISCOs.

“The major power breakdown that left more than half of Lahore in darkness on Thursday-Friday was also due to a problem in the NTDC transmission line, which resulted in a cascading effect in the form of tripping of grid stations, low voltage and power load shedding in the LESCO-run region,” said the senior official of NTDC.

‘RISING CIRCULAR DEBT TO STRENGTHEN SPECTRE OF LOAD SHEDDING’:

Background interviews and discussions with energy experts have revealed that the rising circular debt would lead to further load shedding and affect production activities. Experts said Pakistan was producing around 9,000MW of electricity with oil as fuel whereas receivables of Pakistan State Oil (PSO) had witnessed an increase worth billions of rupees due to the absence of concrete measure to get the issue resolved for good.

They were afraid that if PSO’s payments were not cleared, it would not be in a position to ensure oil supply due to which oil-based electricity would disappear from the system, giving birth to an even more serious power crisis in the country.  They also stressed the need to develop a mechanism to control transmission and distribution losses along with feeder losses that would bring significant improvements in power supply, enabling businesses and industries to flourish.

Ahmad Ahmadani

The author is an investigative journalist. He can be reached at ahmadahmadani@pakistantoday.com.pk.

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