ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has made it clear to the federal cabinet and the departments concerned that he wants to see an end to electricity loadshedding by December this year and will not hesitate to take action against the officials found responsible for gaps in power supply.
Informed sources told Dawn that it was clear from the proceedings of the Cabinet Committee on Energy (CCOE) — the fourth in 20 days — that the prime minister wanted to declare the country loadshedding-free by December so as to enable his party to face the electorate with confidence in next year’s general election.
The sources said his nervous aides and ministers had advised a cautious approach and wanted completion of trial runs to test sustainability of the transmission and distribution system before coming up with a fresh deadline to avoid another embarrassment.
However, the prime minister repeatedly told the participants in the meeting that he was not ready to allow an extension in the deadline for completion of important generation and transmission projects beyond December. An official, however, explained that loadshedding would continue in some rural areas and “security-wise challenging parts” of the country on ‘high-loss-low-recovery grounds’.
The sources said the prime minister was informed that the authorities were already providing electricity to some high-revenue areas without interruption between 12 midnight and 8am in cities like Lahore, Rawalpindi and Islamabad on a trial basis.
Sharif chairs fourth meeting of cabinet body on energy in 20 days and issues a deadline
The prime minister was also told that there was no unscheduled loadshedding even now as hydropower generation had improved and power cuts averaged below five hours. This was in addition to uninterrupted power supplies to the industrial sector.
An official statement said the prime minister expressed displeasure over the current loadshedding schedule. He said it was the government’s responsibility to provide relief to the masses.
“Anticipated planning has not been exercised by the relevant ministries and their organisations for which responsibility must be fixed,” the prime minister was quoted as saying in the statement.
Secretary for water and power Yousaf Naseem Khokhar briefed PM Sharif about the availability and utilisation of idle capacity of plants run by the independent power producers and captive power plants to the extent of 2,000MW and discussed load management plan for the summer. The secretary reported that 866MW of power generation had been restored to the system this month and another 400MW would be added by mid-May.
Khwaja Asif, the Minister for Water and Power, told the meeting that a programme for power system constraints resolution was currently in full swing and would be completed by December.
The prime minister directed the power secretary to constitute a dedicated team for hourly monitoring of the power supply situation. The team must also report on monitoring of power transmission and distribution system as well on a weekly basis.
He directed the water and power secretary to present a line of action for resolution of issues related to idle plants and present a report in two days.
Besides, the ministry was also directed to work out a balanced conversion plan of power generation plants from furnace oil to re-gassified Liquid Natural Gas (RLNG) and coal and present the plan at the next meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Energy so as to reduce the cost of electricity for all sectors.
Published in Dawn, April 29th, 2017