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Poor management causes severe power outages: experts

Experts said that the current wave of severe power outages in most parts of the country is due to poor management.

“There is no justification for subjecting consumers to protracted power outages in April when the demand is well below the available power generation capacities,” said Lt Gen Zulfiqar Ali Khan (Retd), former chairman of the Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda).

Reduction of 500MW generation due to the blowing up of the gas pipeline in an area does not justify long power suspensions because the total demand in the country is only 14,000MW against a power generation capacity of around 20,000MW, he said.

“When you produce only 6,000MW against three times higher installed capacities you are asking for trouble,” he added.Due to poor management, Gen Zulfiqar said, the recoveries of the distribution companies are extremely poor. There has been a criminal neglect in the maintenance of the public sector power generation units. The strings of the power sector are still controlled by the Ministry of Water and Power where bureaucrats lack the expertise on power generation issues.

He said the assignment given to the present Wapda chairman to oversee the power sector is the tacit admission that the bifurcation of Wapda was a mistake. However, the chairman would not be able to deliver if the previous authority vested in Wapda for the power sector regulation is not restored.

He said he lacks the power to hire and fire the inefficient and incompetent power sector officials. The power secretary still calls the shots, he said, adding that the ministry defaults on payments to power producers, oil and gas suppliers because of its inability. The Ministry of Finance has now started refusing to bailout the fund deficit from government accounts, he added.

Meanwhile, experts also expressed surprise on the request of the power sector to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for the recovery of its power dues. Engineer Mian Fazal said that the power dues exceed Rs400 billion but most of the defaulters are still getting the electricity.

It would be interesting if the NAB, besides recovering the dues also apprehend those power sector officials that violated the rules and did not disconnect the connections of the defaulters, which resulted in accumulation of dues, he said.

The inability to collect rightful dues show the level of mismanagement in the power sector, he said.Mohsin Syed, another power sector expert, regretted that the sub-divisional officers in the distribution companies are probably not aware of the per unit cost of electricity that is supplied to the consumers through feeder looked after by them.

He said they are not held accountable for the distribution losses that actually are due to the power theft, adding that the power companies should set a limit up to which the distribution losses will be accepted. “Over and above that limit the SDO should be held responsible,” he said, adding that the distribution losses in the 10 power distribution companies of the country range from nine percent to 35 percent.

To start with the maximum distribution loss benchmark should be nine percent, which should be gradually reduced to globally acceptable four percent, he said.Another former chairman of Wapda said that the performance of the power sector has deteriorated after making the authority chief as the powerless in-charge of the power sector entities.

Those officials empowered on postings and transfers and hiring and firing of power sector manpower are naturally in a position to overrule or neglect the directions of the powerless Wapda chairman, he said.

This has further increased the turmoil in the power generation. “This confusion must be addressed by either empowering the Wapda chairman as he was in unified Wapda or withdrawing him from intervention in the power sector activities, he added.

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