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As power riots spread, experts warn of worse outages

While a heavyweight PPP Minister Ahmed Mukhtar has opened his guns against the prime minister for what he thinks has been total mishandling of the loadshedding issue by his own PPP government leading to power riots in two provinces, official sources in the government’s energy sector warn of a worse scenario in the coming weeks and months.

Mukhtar, now the power minister, recently publicly criticised Raja Pervaiz Ashraf for his handling of the energy crisis as water and power minister.

The declining dependable generation capacity coupled by inefficient and corrupt DISCOs (power distribution companies) and low recoveries would further compound the loadshedding in the months and years to come, it is feared.

The present strategy of diverting gas and oil to produce electricity is no solution but a fire-fighting policy that can temporarily ease off the public rage, not solve the crisis, these sources say.

They said that the dependable generation capacity is continuously on the decline and in the month of June 2012, the demand supply-gap was about 9,000MW which would increase in the months and years to come.

Of late, in a high level meeting of water and power experts in Lahore, it was admitted that the present power crisis is the consequence of corruption, bad governance and meddling in the affairs of power authorities.

At a Wapda House meeting chaired by Water and Power Minister Ahmad Mukhtar on June 5, a senior water and power executive had said that governance was the key issue. If governance is improved, major problems would be resolved automatically. The postings/transfers were being made on political basis and without any merit.

The water and power officials insist that the best short-term solution is to check the losses and power theft, which is extremely high particularly in Sindh, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Additionally, all nine distribution companies of Pakistan, in one way or the other, suffer from transmission and distribution losses, ranging from 10 % to 35% or even more in some DISCOs.

The overall transmission and distribution losses in the DISCOs of the Punjab stand between 10 to 19 percent whereas their recoveries are between 94 to 100 percent. However, because of poor administrative control and inefficiency, the power distribution companies of the other three provinces are facing losses between 20% to 40%.

Though losses of the Punjab-based companies range between 10% to 19%, but with little effort and strict supervision, it is believed that even this loss level can be very easily brought down to a single digit. “This effort alone will bring the present energy tariff down by 40%,” an expert said, adding that it will also help in reducing the duration of loadshedding by up to six hours.

The overall losses level and recovery percentage of difference DISCOs are: LESCO (Lahore)- 14% and 99%; GEPCO (Gujranwala)- 11% and 99%; MEPCO (Multan)- 19% and 94%; IESCO (Islamabad)- 10% and 100%; FESCO (Faisalabad)- 10% and 100%; PESCO (Peshawar)- 30% and 84%; QESCO (Quetta)- 22% and 90%; HESCO (Hyderabad) 28% and 76%; SEPCO- 39% and 70%; and KESC-36% and 80% respectively.

The sources said that law abiding citizens of all different provinces are the real sufferers of the situation as they have to face the loadshedding despite paying more to compensate the inefficiency of DISCOs and corruption of power thieves.

In Karachi, the Kunda system has become a norm and as reflected in the above data, the line losses are critically high in most of the provinces and regions thus shifting all burden on those who pay for the electricity they consume.

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