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LAHORE, May 19: The power shortfall worsened in the country on Sunday as temperature sustained in the mid-40s degree Celsius in Punjab plains and around 50C in Sindh and demand hit summer peak of around 16,500MW.

The generation during the peak hours was only 9,300MW as per official claim, which had a measure of exaggeration in it. On average, the generation was around 8,000MW only, leaving a shortfall of around 8,500MW at any given point in time during the day. It forced the planners to resort to even more loadshedding, which had already hit 18 hours on Saturday. The urban centres in the country faced up to 20 hours of loadshedding and rural feeders went virtually without power.

The caretaker Federal Minister for Water and Power, Mussadaq Malik, during a press conference on Sunday admitted that power planners fudged demand figures to make it less threatening. That precisely seemed to be the situation on Sunday, when all power sector officials insisted that demand was only 15,300MW. Their insistence was despite the fact that mercury had hit summer peak both in Punjab and Sindh. The demand rises by 1,500MW to 2,000MW during monsoon only, otherwise it spikes when temperature hits mid-40s. Last year, the peak demand during monsoon was over 19,000MW. By that calculation, the total demand should now be in the vicinity of 17,000MW, which power sector is insisting at 15,300MW.

“The sector seems to be collapsing because no one is in-charge,” says a former head of the National Transmission and Dispatch Company (NTDC). The caretaker set-up has neither taken any decision nor attempted to set the things right. Rather they have only let things go in a direction set by the PPP government. During these two months, no attempt was made to recover receivables either from the government sector or private ones. This could have given some breather. The entire focus was riveted on the election, and things are disintegrating once it has passed. The government departments and the FBR owe billions of rupees. The KESC alone owes around Rs50 billion, the Punjab government owes Rs10 billion. The caretakers could have at least tried to recover them and set things on a better path. It has not happened, and the situation is worsening by the day now, he feared.

Meanwhile, the city of Lahore almost went without power as its supplies were cut to a meagre 1,500MW against total demand of 4,200MW. By evening and later in the night, almost 70 per cent of the city plunged into darkness.

“The National Power Control Centre (NPCC) is switching the supplies off without even informing us,” said an executive engineer of Lesco. Currently, the entire control of supplies has shifted to NPCC. In the name of balancing demand and supply, the centre is switching off supplies at will. The Lesco staff is as helpless as consumers and is only there to take flak from consumers, he maintained.