LAHORE: With mercury inching towards 40 degrees Celsius in most parts of the country and water discharge from two major dams reduced because of low irrigation requirements, electricity shortage shot to 6,000MW on Thursday, forcing authorities to resort to 12 to 18 hours of loadshedding.

According to officials of the Pakistan Electric Power Company (Pepco), all the determinants turned nasty for the sector’s managers in the last two days.

Describing the bleak scenario, they said water discharge was reduced, the temperature shot up and power plants of 2,700MW capacity were closed because of fuel shortage.

In addition, two long-term problems were refusing to go away. The bills’ recovery was stuck at only 86 per cent for the last several months, adding almost Rs300 million per day to the outstanding amount.

On top of that, the government had delayed subsidy payment. Of the Rs32 billion dues, the government had cleared only Rs10bn about 10 days ago, leaving a deficit of Rs22bn. Over the last 10 days, another Rs8bn might have been added to the bill, taking the total close to Rs30bn mark.

“Because of these two factors, the power planners are unable to run the plants,” said a Pepco official.

Of the total thermal capacity of about 3,000MW, the company was able to produce only 1,350MW on Thursday. The contribution from the independent power producers (IPPs) was down to 6,400MW and hydel projects produced 1,700MW — amounting to about 9,500MW of total generation.

“Everyone, including the government, knows and acknowledges that it is going to be a tough summer,” said a former Pepco chief. Still, no one was interested in setting things right before the summer. The entire sector was being run on an ad hoc basis.

Over the past 13 months, the entire official focus had been on attracting investments in generation, knowing well that it was a long-term process. This in turn had taken official attention and planning away from the efficiency of the system.

The government had simply forgotten that efficiency improvement could partially solve the problem. So, the efficiency side had been ignored grossly.

In those 13 months, none of the 16 important companies of the sector could get a permanent head. Even the chiefs of departments who were appointed by the PML-N government got “ad hoc, additional or acting charges”.

If the government continued to pursue policies which created certain problems in the first place, how could it expect better results, wondered the former Pepco chief.

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