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Violence as shortfall rises to 7,000MW

May 28, 2013

LAHORE, May 27: The country continued to be in the grip of the worst power crisis on Monday, stoking nationwide protests and violence as electricity shortfall rose to a phenomenal 7,000MW – total generation of 10,500MW against a demand of 17,500MW.

However, the shortfall rises exceptionally when contribution to the Karachi Electric Supply Company of over 700MW is deducted from the figure, along with exemptions (defence installations, hospitals, so-called VVIP houses) of around 1,500MW and line losses of around 22 per cent.

“It leaves only around 6,000MW for the common man against a demand of 15,000MW,” said a former managing director of the Pakistan Electric Power Company.

Of the 6,000MW, a section of the industry is still getting 18-hour supplies and consumes around 1,500MW. After all these deductions, the sectoral planners have only 4,500MW to 5,000MW to play with for meeting a domestic demand of around 15,000MW. This explains the extent and depth of the crisis and fraying nerves of people who do not have even fans in scorching heat.

On Friday, the mercury broke a 69-year record (hitting a baking 48 C) in Lahore and the city went virtually without power. “On Monday, it were Mirpur and Faisalabad, on Tuesday it may be other cities, but protest and violence would continue,” he feared.

“With this kind of power generation all urban feeders are suffering up to 18 hours of loadshedding and there is simply no schedule, or electricity, for rural areas. It means that at any given moment, 70 per cent of Pakistan is without electricity.”

“There is simply no electricity in the system,” says an official of the National Transmission and Dispatch Company. The whole day is spent juggling the power around, whatever the system has.

Mercifully, enough hydel contribution may bring a ray of light. It is now providing around 50 per cent of total generation. Even more importantly, water is stored during the day in dams to be released during peak hours to maximise generation. Otherwise, there is neither oil nor gas to meet the current demand.

Had it not been for hydel at this stage, it would have been a total collapse. With temperature falling in Skardu and other parts of the Northern Areas, water supplies might go down and spell more disaster in the next 48 hours.

Several plants are offline because there is no oil or gas to run them. All payments that the government and power sector make are adjusted against outstanding amounts rather than being used for fresh oil purchase. No amount of money thus brings relief to the sector or common man, he observed.

“The only hope is improvement in weather in a few days,” says an official of Genco-I – a public sector generation company. If weather turns harsh, the power riots would only become severe and frequent. The sector has hit its peak as far as generation, within these resources, is concerned. Water contribution would at best sustain the level or go down.

Oil supplies are hard to come by because the Pakistan State Oil is struggling to avoid international default rather than streamlining supplies. Gas fields are at annual maintenance. Where would electricity come from, unless, of course, the caretakers pump huge money … which they have already refused. It is a scary scenario, threatening to get worse, he concluded.