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‘Negligent’ power ministry officials earn PM’s wrath

Updated Apr 19, 2017 09:49am


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ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif chairing the meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Energy.—APP
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif chairing the meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Energy.—APP

ISLAMABAD: As electricity shortfall crossed a record 7,000MW, an angered Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif ordered action against officials who failed to make advance planning for the season, causing problems to people.

“Why didn’t they plan in advance keeping in mind low water availability in dams and severe weather conditions,” an official statement quoted the prime minister as saying when he was informed about the closure of a number of power plants for maintenance.

He was presiding over a special meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Energy — second in less than 10 days.

Electricity shortfall crosses record 7,000MW amid closure of several power plants for maintenance

Informed sources said the power shortfall actually fluctuated between 9,000MW and 10,000MW as maximum demand went past 21,500MW against peak generation of 12,700MW for only 35 minutes by ramping up water discharges from dams. Excluding peak, power generation averaged 11,000MW, but the electricity actually reaching the consumers was less than 9,000MW after accounting for transformational, transmission and distribution losses.

As a consequence, duration of loadshedding increased to 14-16 hours in urban areas and most of the time loadshedding was unscheduled in view of system challenges. Loadshedding in rural areas was even worse, rising to 20 hours. The situation aggravated as one of the largest load centres — Lahore — entered peak levels at 46 degrees centigrade and joined the league of Multan, Faisalabad, Bahawalpur and Dera Ismail Khan.

However, official sources claimed the maximum gap at 7,000MW on the basis of 19,500MW of demand and 12,500MW of production. They said hydropower generation peaked at 2,500MW, along with 1,900MW production from public sector companies and about 7,000MW from independent power producers.

While reviewing the situation, the prime minister expressed “dissatisfaction over the negligence of departments concerned” over the latest power situation that has put the government in an awkward political position at one of the most challenging times and ahead of the Panama Leaks case judgement.

The meeting reviewed factors behind lower power generation. The Ministry of Water and Power explained that an unexpected surge in the intensity of hot weather suddenly increased the demand having an impact of more than 2,500MW while dams did not have required water level. The ministry expressed the hope that the rise in temperature would result in improved river flows, which would lead to an increase in hydropower generation.

This did not satisfy the prime minister. He expressed displeasure over the explanation of the ministry and “directed that responsibility be fixed on officials for not planning proactively so that the situation does not re-surface”, without realising that the chief architect of power sector planning had already been eased out a few days ago.

Mr Sharif said all resources should be set in motion to reduce current shortfall and provide maximum relief to people through as much reduction in loadshedding as possible. “The discomfort caused to people should be rectified at the earliest and steps should be taken on war footing to maximise power generation”, he said.

Official sources said the former secretary of water and power had stopped circulation of energy data about six months ago and switched off television screens in the ministry and field formations showing real time generation and consumption patterns.

Informed sources said it was strange that a number of power plants were allowed by the ministry to go on ‘scheduled maintenance’ in April when weather advisories had already been issued by the Meteorological Department, instead of planning their maintenance during lean days.

They said the most crucial challenge for the operational staff of the power sector was to switch power supply from south to north mainly because of transmission system deficiencies.

For example, a critical transmission line for evacuation from two power plants at Uch at a time is still missing though the prime minister was misled into inauguration of Uch-II plant three years ago.

A power sector expert said the power ministry had focused its attention on media management and article writing over the last three years as it benefited from the historically low oil prices, non-notification of tariff determinations and levy of a series of surcharges to charge around Rs5 per unit higher rates to consumers over those approved by the power regulator. On top of that, weather conditions over the last three years remained normal. Even then the recoveries could not pick up and line losses remained generally unchanged.

Published in Dawn, April 19th, 2017


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Comments (62) Closed

Rohail Apr 19, 2017 08:13am

Prime Minister is to be very angered and frustrated till 2:00PM tomorrow. Once elections and interim government is announced, he will feel okay. He may decided to go offshore for emergent healthcare issues.

AXH Apr 19, 2017 08:19am

Isn't Abid Sher Ali the current minister of Power and Water? Isn't he also the nephew of Nawaz? And then Mr. PM wonders why things were not planned properly.

Zafar Apr 19, 2017 08:22am

Well we have generation and transmission capacity-but don't have efficient management to unplug that potential.

flipflop Apr 19, 2017 08:36am

People will start moving away from the grid eventually as solar panels become cheaper and efficient or move to other alternate energy resource. I don't see any point in relying on our government for electricity because they failed and all our governments in the past have failed and have been failing since the 1950's. Their promises are nothing but lies filled with empty hopes and when they leave they leave rich while people suffer.

Khwarizmi Apr 19, 2017 08:45am

Incompetence is inherited from the top. I hope we wake up to a new and better Pakistan on the 21st.

Takur Apr 19, 2017 08:48am

PML-N Govt is so serious about eradicating the power load shedding, Zyhat the reason almost every week signing MOU various Chinese companies

ayza Apr 19, 2017 08:52am

How long have the suffering people of Pakistan been hearing this admin lamenting about the power shortage throughout the land? And now with Ramzan fast approaching, the situation is even more dire.

Let's hope some miracle takes place in this insurmountable problem, and finally this govt. stops pandering to its politically appointed cronies and starts hiring genuinely qualified professionals in this sector.

anees zed Apr 19, 2017 08:53am

NO. This so-called 'wrath' is the result of other fears - Panama, 2018 election etc.

ILYAS KHAN Apr 19, 2017 09:00am

Incompetent at the highest still our people keep on electing these tugs. God help us ....

moe Apr 19, 2017 09:01am

4 years in Government but still serve power issue, What is going on? fire all the lazy ministers and the the ones involved in planning- this is Unbelievable !

Akil Akhtar Apr 19, 2017 09:13am

Shameful...blaming failure of his govt and all promises on officials....

The Observer Apr 19, 2017 09:19am

And we were going to have surplus electricity in start of 2018, the year of elections. I wonder how would they fill up 12,000 MW gap. A magic wand may help.

Khawaja Apr 19, 2017 09:31am

were they were sleeping in 4 year ......................?

Asif Ahmed Apr 19, 2017 09:33am

It is too late Mr. PM

Naveed J. Apr 19, 2017 09:55am

Third time PM, changed Nawaz Shareef, Experienced team etc. etc.

They made mockery of people who voted them for solving the problem of load shedding.

Asm Apr 19, 2017 10:02am

too late. The general public is already facing the consequences of the government poor planning.

Asfhaq Apr 19, 2017 10:03am

Where is incompetent asif khwaja

Arshad Apr 19, 2017 10:05am

Really ? Did he "FIRE" the "Minister for Power" ?

Younus Khan Apr 19, 2017 10:08am

What about Solar Park in Punjab with capacity of 1000MW. Secondly Chasnup is also producing around 500MW. These are the recent addition to national grid. I don't know where these production are going

Abdul Manan Khan Apr 19, 2017 10:14am

If it had been private sector, the system would have been corrected. Fire the wrong people and hire the right people.

Pak army lovers Apr 19, 2017 10:22am

This is nothing but Panama pressure...

Bijli Apr 19, 2017 10:24am

As expected....Things happen only if there is a will to do so....Loadshedding was the biggest thing to cash in 2013 elections by NS & Co. Here we are after 4 years.....Things have gone worst....In the end, they will create illusions of electricity being generated upto demand in last year to fool we ppl again in 2018 elections.....Best of luck Nation!!

A Pakistani Apr 19, 2017 10:27am

PM's wrath?. How can the ministry earn his wrath when he's the one ordering the power cuts?.

Zulfiqar Ali Syed Apr 19, 2017 10:41am

I think Prime Minister need to take a control of SNGPL, and try to find out reasons behind the UFG, also deliberate overbilling to customers to customers to cover the losses. SNGPL management is in real bad shape

syed Apr 19, 2017 10:46am

yes election is near.

Pakistani Apr 19, 2017 10:52am

This 'wrath' of NS is like always just for show and public consumption, otherwise he could have fired the concerned Minister. Besides, NS is the king of making tall claims which as expected and like always never come true.

zafar ahmed Apr 19, 2017 10:53am

This government don't have professionally competent & dedicated team to solve the problem of energy crisis. .

Shakeel Ahmed Apr 19, 2017 11:04am

21,500 MW is a lot of demand. There is a need for serious thinking of planning for 40,000 MW now for the near future because of the exponential population growth and growing lifestyle comforts. temporary fixes for gaining vote banks is not an answer.

SAT Apr 19, 2017 11:06am

Before blaming others, the PM should be accountable for this mess. He should have held this meeting before the mess and not after the mess in the power supply.

ismail Apr 19, 2017 11:23am

So shall I assume this minister will be sacked along with high rank officials.

CH. K. A. Nye Apr 19, 2017 11:24am

Yes, yes, blame game yet again. Hapless officials are the target and to blame for years of indecision and incompetent governance.

CH. K. A. Nye Apr 19, 2017 11:28am

Line losses?? Stop legitimising thievery by calling it line losses. Start going after these thieves.

asif Apr 19, 2017 11:35am

Keep voting these people and enjoy the sun and blistering heat. Why complain now, enjoy this suffering.

Hassan (Karachi) Apr 19, 2017 11:44am

To make electricity, we waste water from dams? It seems Pakistan need to focus on renewable solar and wind farm for electricity generation. We can not waste water.

Usman Apr 19, 2017 11:50am

The fear of being made to lose position, igniting a few good deeds to portray himself as a "good" man?

Abbasi Apr 19, 2017 11:50am

Yet, they repeating mantra to end loadshedding in next 6 months.

MS Apr 19, 2017 12:05pm

Classic government move, just pass the buck on to someone else.

sabeeh ahmad Apr 19, 2017 12:13pm

All ministers are busy in CEPEC and Constructions of Roads....

Fudayl Z. Ahmad Apr 19, 2017 12:17pm

This is an excellently detailed piece, thank you Dawn. It is an eye opener for the Power Ministry, WAPDA and NEPRA; they should have addressed all the power shortages during the months Hydroelectricity is normally not much available. Coal and RLNG based thermal plants could have been encouraged more; both being next cost effective after hydroelectricity. At least a full technical report should be prepared and brought in the public domain as to what will have to be done and at what cost to raise the useable power production in the country at affordable costs. Political rhetoric should surely take the back seat.

SYED HASSAN HASEEB Apr 19, 2017 12:23pm

lies and nothing in last 4 yrs this govt did nothing other then false statement and advertisement in news paper and tv . people are being burnt in this heat god bless us.

Amad Apr 19, 2017 12:29pm

This happens when we kill merit and give important positions on the basis of loyalty. The rot goes from top to bottom.

usman Khan Apr 19, 2017 12:32pm

What a shame, wasted so much tax payer money and we end up with 12 hours average loadshading. The whole Govt is responsible for this crisis and its created by themselves before Panama Judgment.

Ahmad Apr 19, 2017 12:46pm

Shame on you PML (N)

Taimoor khan Apr 19, 2017 12:50pm

Not only dishonest but incompetent as well. Deadly combo.

sabeeh ahmad Apr 19, 2017 12:54pm

If you analyze PML N govt tenure you can very easily conclude that apart from constructions of roads it has done nothing. Everything is same. Corruption in every department, sorrow state of education and govt schools, dismal performance of all govt institutions, same poverty level, same load shedding, same patwari system. Shameful performance of PML N govt.

mansoor Apr 19, 2017 12:57pm

People in power, in dark suits, discussing heat wave, and load shedding of 7-9 hours with tempratures touching 46C. Insensitive, ignorant, callous, incompetent or plain negligent of reality.

IAB Apr 19, 2017 01:01pm

Goes to show bad maintenance schedules and it is time we either stopped depending on our hydropower dams. If not, then better build larger water reservoirs and better our water treaty with India..... Invest in solar and wind energy at retail level with reverse buy back options ...

Abdul zaher Apr 19, 2017 01:05pm

Good step. But too late Mr. P.M.

Ur1986 Apr 19, 2017 01:10pm

Steps should be taken on war footing after 4 years have passed. Good job.

m rafique Apr 19, 2017 01:20pm

‘ an angered Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif ordered action against officials' does not includes two ministers who failed to make advance planning for the season, causing problems to people.

AMAR Apr 19, 2017 01:25pm

16 hr load shedding in urban area !!! Wonder how industry in Pakistan are surviving .

Farooq Arain Apr 19, 2017 01:26pm

Drama.....where was the PM earlier, this is all done to make fool of people of Pakistan and our nation continuously gets into traps of such cunning leaders. Jago Pakistanio

Maula Jatt Apr 19, 2017 01:28pm

“Why didn’t they plan in advance keeping in mind low water availability in dams and severe weather conditions,” ... quoted the prime minister as saying ...

Because you didn't order them so.

Parveez Apr 19, 2017 01:31pm

I hope the people suffer soooooo much that they actually wake up one day and do something to fix their country

CRICKET LOVER Apr 19, 2017 01:53pm

Will he sack ministers and government officials responsible before sacking himself for being equally negligent and for failing to control shortcoming of electricity.

AK Apr 19, 2017 02:58pm

“Why didn’t they plan in advance keeping in mind low water availability in dams and severe weather conditions,”


Because your entire government machinery was involved in planning something "more important" than power supply to the nation.

ehs Apr 19, 2017 03:08pm

More Drama, all words and no action like always before. The Minister of Water and Power is his close buddy and relative.

Bilal khan Apr 19, 2017 03:48pm

Nawaz is tense and cares about load shedding ONLY because of competition from IMRAN KHAN! Nawaz knows if he doesnt perform Imran wins. THANK YOU Imran Khan!

Viking Star Apr 19, 2017 04:12pm

@AXH .... Everyone in the cabinet is PMs relative. For sure Nawaz Sharif will try and pose "efficient" until tomorrow afternoon.

AG Swabi Apr 19, 2017 04:27pm

Dear PM, teach your power officials the basic rules;

  1. PLANNING means deciding in advance, what is to be done, where, when, how, and with what resources?
  2. Power plants shut downs as "planned" maintenance during peak season is like maintaining the aircraft during flight. It is the worst utility practice throughout the world.

Now please go ahead and start the accountability process from the top. We're watching.

Adeel Apr 19, 2017 07:09pm

@AG Swabi totally agreeing with u...i may add privatisation of energy should be reversed....unless we add 10 thousand extra maggawatts of state own sectir this problem can't be solved and we will find ourselvs dependant of private sector....morover we badly need hydro generation up to 90 % of our total generation to reduce the coming 5 to 10 years....

M. Siddique Apr 19, 2017 07:26pm

Instead of taking concrete steps in the last 4 years, the PM is having a knee jerk reaction against officials. They are easy target.