Loadshedding woes | Pakistan Today

Loadshedding woes

  • Inadequate fuel supply and the heat

With temperatures rising day by day and people being encouraged to stay home due to the Covid-19 pandemic by the government, perhaps a better effort at ensuring uninterrupted supply of electricity to residences should have been made. Residents of Karachi being subjected to excessive power outages of up to ten hours in certain areas for the past week is reminiscent of an era of extreme loadshedding that the country went through up until 2016, by which time, finally, enough electricity had been added to the national grid for there to be a surplus. K-Electric, the primary and private electricity provider to the city has blamed the sharp increase in electricity usage due to the hotter weather and a severe shortage of furnace oil that would have been used to plug the megawatt gap. Although there are other power generating entities like independent power producers (IPPs), the investor-owned K-Electric, enjoys a monopolistic transmission and distribution license, which means consumers in Karachi do not have any alternative. This lack of competition is what forced PTI lawmakers in Sindh to demand the introduction of new companies into the distribution chain of electricity in the city to end K-Electric’s dominance. It is however, not that simple and a larger conversation must be had over the structure of power generation and distribution in the country. Karachi is unique in the way that it is the only city where a private company is the generator, distributor and transmitter of electricity all-in-one, which is also why it is run efficiently and profitably.

Meanwhile, the rest of the country has to contend with the bifurcation between all three major components of electricity supply, which are fully state-owned. In Punjab for example, WAPDA generates the electricity through various sources, LESCO distributes it and NTDC, through its severely compromised and out-dated transmission network delivers it to homes and businesses. All are loss-making inefficiently run taxpayer-money-haemorrhaging public sector enterprises that are overstaffed and cannot be privatised very easily due union protection and vested bureaucratic and political interests of past and present governments. Although loadshedding in Karachi has been resolved now that furnace oil import has been allowed, that there was an issue to begin with, makes a good case for the introduction of private-sector competition in the energy production and distribution industry. Not only will consumers be able to enjoy the advantages of lowers prices and better availability, a host of other issues related to this perennially problematic sector will also be resolved.