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Sindh protests being billed Rs60bn extra by Wapda

The Sindh government lodged protest against Rs60 billion “over-billing” by Wapda to the provincial government’s departments during a recent meeting of the Council of Common Interests (CCI), it was learnt by The News on Saturday.

The CCI was informed that four provinces owed around Rs95 billion till December last year as outstanding dues to the power utilities i.e. Rs60 billion were outstanding against Sindh, Rs20 billion against Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), Rs8.600 billionagainst Punjab and Rs5.500 billion were outstanding against Balochistan.

However, Chief Minister Sindh Syed Qaim Ali Shah and Minister for Religious Affairs Syed Khurshid Ahmed Shah protested against such huge figure, saying that Wapda had sent “excessive bills” to the Sindh province. They stressed for reconciling the figures in order to pay the “actual amount”.

Similarly, chief secretary Punjab said that an amount of Rs5.5 to Rs6 billion was being erroneously shown against his province.

However, all the four chief secretaries agreed to clear power bills after reconciling the figures.

Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf observed that the issue of outstanding bills against the provinces was very important, as the federal government had so far injected Rs186 billion in the power sector in the year 2012 as compared to Rs73 billion in 2011.

Raja said that unless the provinces and the consumers pay their bills, “it will be difficult to maintain the power supply”.

The secretary power also expressed concern over the alarming situation of cash flow as the current dues were not being paid and neither conservation measures were being implemented. She said that the provincial governments needed to pay attention to their utility consumption while allocating budget as the budget availability was far less than the consumption.

Governor Balochistan proposed to effectively curb power theft in order to improve electricity situation.

After thorough debate on the issue, the CCI constituted a committee comprising federal ministers Syed Khurshid Ahmed Shah and Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh to reconcile the figures between federal government and provinces and develop a mechanism to ensure that there was no discrepancy in figures.

Although most of the issues debated at the 22nd meeting of the CCI pertained to the energy sector, power conservation and alternative energy resources also attracted the attention of the participants.

Power conservation

The CCI noted with concern that most of the decisions taken at the Energy Conference (EC) on April 9 last year in Lahore relating to energy conservation measures have not been implemented. The secretary IPC underlined the importance of early promulgation of Energy Conservation Act, besides implementing the Energy Conference’s decisions.

The secretary water and power referred to “certain bottlenecks” in the implementation of some decisions of the EC. She pointed out that 30 million energy savers were being manufactured in China, which would be replacing 10 million bulbs in Pakistan in the first phase by March this year. She also said that the Electricity Act was under consideration by the National Assembly’s standing committee on water and power.

The chief secretary Punjab stressed the need for expediting the finalisation of Electricity Act as well as introducing “amendments” in the Criminal Procedure Code as agreed at the Energy Conference.

Chief Minister Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa argued that five-day working should be continued to conserve 700mw electricity. He stressed the need for adopting a unified approach throughout the country in order to achieve full benefits of these conservation measures.

The chief minister Sindh supported the viewpoint of the KP CM.

The CCI directed the Ministry of Water and Power to take further “necessary steps” to implement the recommendations of the EC for energy conservation. It also directed the ministry to finalise necessary laws and rules and put necessary systems in place to capture its fullest potential.

Sugar mills

The CCI was informed that efforts to generate electricity from biogas by the sugar mills could not be accelerated as the issue of tariff still remained undecided. It was pointed out that the CCI at its meeting on August 8, 2012, had assigned the task of determining the upfront tariff to Nepra to promote power generation from biogas but it was not implemented so far. It was told that the determination of upfront tariff would definitely attract the investors in the energy sector as it was expected to generate 2000mw electricity from biogas in Punjab province alone.

The prime minister directed the secretary water and power to pursue Nepra for expeditious determination of upfront tariff not only for biogas but also for coal, solar, and wind generation, etc.

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