LAHORE: The country was hit by a severe energy crisis on Friday, as electricity shortage swelled to beyond 60 per cent and one of its two major gas utilities faced a shortfall of 30 per cent.
With an attack damaging a pipeline in Kashmore, the shortfall faced by the Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited (SNGPL) increased to 850 million cubic feet (mmcf) or around 30pc of its total demand.
The company stopped supplying gas to power, transport and industrial sectors, but even then the supply situation for domestic consumers had not improved much by Friday evening.
Meanwhile, the nationwide electricity shortfall swelled beyond 60pc, causing up to 18 hours of loadshedding in urban areas and up to 22 hours of outage in the rural areas.
According to the power sector managers, electricity generation dropped to only 8,300MW in the afternoon against a demand of about 15,000MW.
The shortage of diesel, furnace oil and gas had already affected almost all power plants to varying degrees. But the damages sustained by the gas pipeline on the Sindh-Punjab border hit other plants as well, including the Roche Power, Liberty Tech and Quetta.
The current gas crisis has come in the middle of a severe fuel shortage which had already robbed the sector of more than 4,000MW.
“The relief that came in the wake of improvement in river flows has been neutralised by these emergencies,” said an official of the National Transmission and Dispatch Company (NTDC).
He said the sector faced two major, and chronic, problems: severe financial crunch and complete collapse of the central management structure. The shortfall was not unprecedented but there was “complete mismanagement”.
“Currently, no one is in charge of the sector which is divided between a series of autonomous companies. There is no central planning agent, no loadshedding scheduling, no generation planning and all distribution companies working on their own. No one knows who is drawing what from the national pool and why?”
According to a former managing director of the Pakistan Electric Power Company (Pepco), at present the generation side is divided among public sector generation companies (Gencos), the independent power producers (IPPs) and hydel plants.
He said the distribution was carried out by different (nine) distribution companies and all of them were run by independent boards of directors. In a planning vacuum, all the companies did what they considered was in their own interest.
“This is a recipe for disaster. The situation will only worsen unless someone is assigned to take a holistic view of generation, transmission and distribution and calibrate all of them to national priorities.”
Meanwhile, the SNGPL Managing Director, Arif Hameed, told media personnel on Friday that the Kashmore gas line blast was the eighth attack on installations in the past few weeks. He said the company had 8,500km of transmission network in unpopulated areas across the country which regularly came under attack.
“Sabotage has a financial impact for the company in terms of volume loss and enormous financial loss to the national economy,” he added.
He said the company on Friday had to curtail supplies to power, industrial and transport sectors. “The company hopes to repair lines by Saturday (today) and start restoring supplies to these sectors.”