After enhancing revenue collection of power companies, present power crisis can be resolved in short-term by utilising available thermal generation capacity with the help of imported oil, said former Finance Minister Dr Salman Shah.
Recovery of outstanding dues should be given top priority, which will help generate funds for purchase of fuel, he said while talking to The News. Present power crisis is purely due to failure of energy managers in running existing thermal plants, he said and adding long and unending outages are detrimental to growth, causing irreparable losses to businesses. “So, top priority should be to utilise existing capacity of power generation, including thermal plants of Karachi Electric Supply Company, which is possible in six months,” he observed.
Amid expanding gap between demand and supply of electricity, there is dire need to use available energy resources judiciously. He added that natural gas should be allocated for optimum use with a view to reducing outages and catering to energy requirement of other economic sectors.
The remarks about prudent use of energy resources are made when whole country is once again in the grip of long outages. The shortfall of electricity once again surpassed 5,000 megawatts, increasing hours of outages to unbearable levels of 8 to 12 hours in different parts of the country, besides putting power system at stake.
The electricity generation faltered to 9,100mw against demand of 14,200mw, showing a gap widening to 5,100mw.
“By plugging revenue collection loophole, which is adding about Rs500 billion every year in budget deficit, we will be able to improve fiscal space as well as generate ample electricity for whole nation,” Shah said.
Shah was of the view that energy crisis could be resolved permanently if government introduces reforms and minimises intervention in power sector’s affairs.
In this scenario, focus should be on judicious use of various fuels, including natural gas, which is a fast depleting resource of the country. Every sector, including fertiliser sector, should get gas in uniformity and on the basis of optimal use. Government should only formulate policy and operation of energy sector should be completely deregulated.
“There should be no interference in production, import and selling of gas.” Similarly, generation and supply of electricity should also be done on business pattern, completely free from intervention of the government,” he said.
Erstwhile Musharraf’s financial czar, Shah said: “We should keep in mind the success of telecom sector in recent years. After liberalisation of telecom sector, not only public but businesses too got numerous benefits.”
Government should facilitate investment in establishing power plants, he said, adding that production and import of natural gas be given freehand. “Such initiatives will ultimately cure prevailing ills of energy sector in next 3 to 5 years once for all,” he believed.
Talking about long-term measures for solving power crisis, Dr Salman Shah said focus should be diverted on cheap and abundant hydel generation, which is our ‘forgotten competitive edge’. “We can generate thousands of megawatts of hydroelectricity in addition to raise irrigation of agriculture lands by exploring hydropower potential,” he said.
Shah stressed the need to eliminate restrictive regime on setting up new power generation projects, hydel and thermal, by opening one-window and speedy operation for facilitating investment in power sector.