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PM to get into third energy huddle in a fortnight

Updated Apr 20, 2017 07:30am

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has reportedly convened another meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Energy (CCOE) on Friday to follow up on his orders for the reduction in loadshedding as temperatures in major cities slightly came down on Wednesday.

The Friday meeting of the CCOE will be the third huddle in a fortnight on increasing energy shortfalls and unscheduled loadshedding that have embarrassed the PML-N government at a crucial phase of its term.

On Wednesday, the electricity shortfall ranged between 7,000 and 8,500 megawatts, resulting in an average loadshedding of almost 12 hours. This was significantly higher than 5,800MW of shortfall claimed by Minister for Water and Power Khawaja Asif in his midday tweets when he put demand at 19,405MW and generation at 13,575MW.

The minister confirmed that 2,200MW of power projects were shut down at present while around 2,700MW of additional demand had developed due to an expected surge in temperature. Luckily, temperatures fell to 43-44 Celsius in major load centres of Punjab, like Lahore, Multan and Faisalabad, compared to 45-46 Celsius a day earlier, although temperatures in Sindh touched 48-50 Celsius, particularly in Sibbi and Larkana.

An official explained that a demand-supply gap of 700MW meant on average one-hour of loadshedding. This means average loadshedding of eight and a half hours based on the power minister’s estimates.

Demand had actually gone beyond 20,500MW by evening and the generation hovered around 13,600MW. About 10,300MW of maximum supply could reach consumers after accounting for 7pc transformational and transmission losses and 18-19 per cent of distribution losses and theft.

Informed sources said the Prime Minister’s Office has also specifically called former secretary water and power Younas Dagha to explain reasons for allowing routine maintenance to a few power plants when hydropower generation was projected to be minimal.

It was all the more important for the fact that the dams almost reached the dead level in March and the Indus River System Authority (Irsa) had feared up to 35pc water shortage in April.

Also, furnace oil storages of oil companies were full to capacity and yet some of the thermal power plants were giving ‘stunted’ production.

These sources said Mr Dagha had also been invited to attend CCOE’s meeting on April 18, but he could not make it because of prior engagements.

The sources said some members of the CCOE suspected suppressed presentation of demand numbers in the past and were surprised to see a gloomier picture painted by the newly appointed secretary water and power, Yousaf Naseem Khokhar. His

presentation showed the demand-supply gap would not fall below 4,500MW even if plants currently on maintenance returned to the system.

The sources said the ministry was seeking the approval of the prime minister to make available power generation and demand situation readily accessible to the media and the public for transparency as was the case until six to eight months ago.

They said the National Power Control Centre (NPCC) — the never centre of power demand, generation and supply — had reported to the new secretary that energy data used to be circulated to all stakeholders and Press Information Department officials for wider dissemination, which did not generally cause any misunderstanding. Likewise, data would also be shown on various television screens provided by USAID and installed in various public places.

Published in Dawn, April 20th, 2017