LAHORE: The electricity shortfall hit alarming proportions on Saturday, shooting beyond the 7,000MW mark — around 40 per cent of the demand — as a fuel crisis threatened to partially disable virtually all power plants.
Insiders put down the crisis to mismanagement, brushing aside talk of capacity constraints.
The oil-, gas-, hydel and nuclear-based plants all suffered because of various reasons, forcing the Pakistan Electric Power Company to resort to 10 hours of loadshedding on the urban feeders. And no one knew about the situation in rural feeders.
The crisis is feared to worsen in the next few days because smaller IPPs — Saif and Orient — have already shut down their plants. The production of Kapco and Guddu dwindled to less than 30 per cent of their capacity as they do not have oil to run plants at full capacity and the Chashma Nuclear Plant-II tripped due to some technical reasons. Both nuclear plants are now offline, creating a cumulative deficit of 700MW.
Even Hubco (1,200MW), which was running at full capacity till Saturday afternoon, warned the Pepco management that it would not be able to hold generation for the next 36 hours because of low oil supplies. On the hydel front, water releases from dams have already been reduced and average contribution on Saturday dropped to 4,000MW against a capacity of 6,500MW.
Expressing helplessness in the face of the crisis that is simply beyond their capacity, Pepco officials maintain: “There is no gas for the power sector, there is no fuel, there is no water and not even nuclear power, how could Pepco generate electricity to keep supplies smooth. On Saturday, the company received only 16,000 tons of oil against a requirement of over 30,000 tons.”
It is a total panic in the company right now, says a Pepco official.
On Saturday, Pepco had planned a deficit of 5,000MW and sounded distribution companies accordingly. Manoeuvring that kind of shortfall without popular reaction takes guts and skills. The deficit, however, spiked beyond the totally unmanageable 7,000MW mark by the evening as more and more plants started going out of operation, he conceded.
The only thing company could do was to arrange some money and pay off some of its debts. That was what it was scrambling to do by Saturday night. But the money it can arrange from its own resources is peanuts given the amount of circular debt.
The crisis is not expected to go away as Pepco cannot do two things – pay for fresh fuel supplies and also clear the debts – at the same time, he claimed.
“Some 30 smaller IPPs would progressively go off line in the next few days if Pepco and the federal government do not do something drastic,” says the owner of a smaller IPP near Lahore. It is not only fuel but the supply pattern that create problem for our operation. If Pepco supplies fuel for two days and keep us without oil for the next five days, operational risks for plant increase. The plants now face three issues – oil payments, capacity dues and oil supply pattern. The first two accounts are now literally costing hundreds of billions of rupees and payments are ballooning by the day, making survival of these plants impossible. If all of them allowed to go offline, they would cause a cumulative loss of around 3,000MW to the system, he warned.