Sartaj Aziz, a senior economic advisor to the Prime Minister elect Nawaz Sharif, says that electricity load-shedding would be reduced “to some extent” during first 100 days of Sharif’s government. [Dawn article] [Radio Pakistan]
In an interview with UPI Next, Aziz reiterated that load-shedding would be eased during first 100 days as the PML-N has thrashed out an emergency plan for it. “The PML-N Government would try to resolve the core problems of circular debts, line-losses and recovering of outstanding bills from public and private sector,” Aziz said.
By that time the snow and ice pack in the mountains would start melting and help increase the country’s hydropower generation, he said. Aziz refused to predict anything about volume of the reduction in hours of load-shedding, but told Dawn that the plan should result in 10 to 12 percent more power from the system.
Unscheduled power outages hit most Pakistanis hard in the hot summer months, with a minimum of 10 hours a day without electricity. Some are without power for 20 hours a day.
The newly elected National Assembly elected Sharif as prime minister on June 5; 100 days is Friday, September 13.
Truth Tracker will use a minimum of 10 percent decrease as the standard to gauge whether this promise has been fulfilled. The decrease should be the result of verified efforts to reduce circular debt, increase delinquent payments and reduce losses from theft. Gifted oil from outside sources, for example, would not be fulfilling the promise of PML-N.
Fulfillment of this promise is underway, as the government has begun making changes in the administration of responsible agencies.
We’ll check in at the half-way mark of 50 days (July 25) to see what progress has been made.
Defining the circular debt, former Chairman of Water and Power Authority (WAPDA) and a consultant of energy sector, Shamsul Mulk told UPI Next by phone Monday that since Pakistan shifted to thermal power generation (power generation through furnace oil or gas) it has been facing the crisis as power generation through oil is the most expensive power production.
“We pay Independent Power Producers for generating electricity and often they keep on generating power on credit that increases debt to the government,” he said. “When we don’t pay for oil and gas, the production reduces due to lack of resources, causing electricity shortage.”
According to Mulk, Pakistan is paying 16.5 rupees/unit to independents for producing electricity whereas energy produced with water flow costs 1.53 rupee/unit.
He said, “The government might overcome load-shedding in three months provided it has enough money in pocket to supply oil and gas to the power companies.”
According to the PML-N plan, that money would come from stopping some of the power theft and collecting on overdue bills. The responsibility for those tasks falls to PEPCO (Pakistan Electric and Power Company).
These measures, however, are difficult to enforce due to security problems in some areas and powerful players interfering in bill collection.
Truth Tracker will be watching to see what steps the PML-N government takes to support bill collection and theft prevention and to ensure that PEPCO fulfills this responsibility.
Another expert on power generation, Lt Gen (Retd) Zulfiqar Ali Khan, said, “It is an artificial crisis.”
Supporting his claim, he said that Pakistan’s national grid has the capacity of generating 21500 MW of electricity out of which 4500 MW is produced through hydro projects and 17000 MW through thermal projects. At the moment, companies are producing 11000 MW whereas the total demand at the moment is nearly 16000 MW.
He said that hydro projects are not working with full capacity as some of them are closed for annual renovation while thermal power houses are also generating less power due to unavailability of oil and gas.
“I believe that the government can overcome load-shedding by recovering outstanding bills from public and private sectors and paying them to the [independent producers] and stopping electricity theft that causes a huge loss to the country.”
Pakistan is suffering from the worst kind of corruption in the state-run organizations, meant to distribute power and collect bills from the consumers. Thousands of people are involved in electricity theft in connivance with the officials of the distribution and collection companies.
“People steal electricity because it is an expensive utility. If it gets cheap, people would stop stealing it,” said Mulk.
Another expert on the power generation and former top gun of WAPDA, Tanzeem Naqvi, rejected all claims of reducing load-shedding in 100 days. “It is a hypothesis. Even if the government recovers outstanding bills and pays off the circular debts, the problem would not be resolved and would reappear after a few days because the national exchequers would not be able to ensure continuous supply of oil to the companies.”