No electricity, no respite!

The interim government of Pakistan has tried several tricks in an attempt to ease the prolonged suffering of the masses due to the electricity crisis. However, the government does not have many achievements in this regard to boast of. The overall production of electricity remains elusive with shortfall of 5000MWs.

Officials of the Ministry of Water and Power claimed that electricity production at 9000MWs, compared to demand of 14000MWs has made it difficult to stop unannounced load shedding. Lahore is suffering a massive, irritating load shedding of one hour after every one hour, while rural areas were also suffering a load shedding of 10 hours to 12 hours.

The power crisis is likely to worsen in days to come owing to mounting circular debt, which is likely to cause more power plants to shut down, naturally worsening load shedding all across the country. “PEPCO has to pay Rs 300 billion to independent power plants (IPPs), growing from Rs 200 billion,” IPP Advisory Council Chairman Abdullah Yousuf said. He said the power crisis will further worsen in the coming days due to circular debt which was getting out of hand.

Energy experts say since there is no respite in sight for power consumers from long hours of power cuts and fluctuations coupled with unannounced outages, the crisis is likely to deepen further with a gradual rise in the mercury.

The phenomenon of electricity outages has picked up drastically, as rural areas face up to 18 to 20 hours of power cuts and urban areas 16 to 18 hours of outages. Experts say oil supply fell to 1,600 tonnes against the minimum requirement of 25,000 tonnes and the caretaker government is required to put serious efforts in to ensure adequate and sustainable power supply instead of relying on reshuffling of officials ostensibly to offset the crisis.

To manage the shortfall, power utility companies have resorted to massive electricity cuts of almost 8-10 hours in urban and 14-16 hours in rural areas. In the twin cities - Islamabad and Rawalpindi - load shedding persists for eight to ten hours. Nevertheless reduction in supply of furnace oil has further given way to the increasing shortfall.

The WAPDA officials say reduced water releases from Tarbela and Mangla dams coupled with reduced oil supply to power plants have played a critical role in worsening the power situation in the country.

The crisis has so far been addressed largely through ad-hoc measures, and an integrated energy planning through institutional framework has been lacking.