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Pandemonium cuts short KE tariff hearing

Updated July 15, 2017

KARACHI: The second day of Nepra’s hearing on K-Electric’s (KE) review motion came to an abrupt end within an hour of its start on Friday when workers of two political parties – Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) and Pakistan People’s Party – hurled accusations amid chants of “K-Electric murdabad” and “K-Electric zindabad”.

The National Electric Power Regu­latory Authority (Nepra) had organised the two-day public hearing for reviewing a petition on KE’s multi-year tariff (MYT) for the period June 2016-2023.

Despite repeated requests to focus on the proceedings and MYT issues, the emotionally charged political workers from Lyari and other parts of the city refused to listen. The first day of the hearing, held on Thursday, was similarly noisy, but KE management still managed to get a few words in edgewise.

Interveners’ did not get a chance to speak, and many of those called upon to speak were not present.

A brief statement was read out by Deputy Secretary Power Niaz Ahmed of the Sindh government requesting Nepra to review the petition holistically – “The tariff structure should consider prudent costs while not ignoring genuine recovery issues and should offer reasonable returns on actual amount of equity and pave way for additional investment.”

“The Sindh government wants the rights of consumers protected through clawback mechanism, and midterm review to assess the performance of the petitioner,” the representative said.

Representing Lyari Mushtaq Chhapra of The Citizens Foundation and Abdul Ghani Baloch barely got a chance to speak on the occasion after being accused of siding with KE.

Imran Shahid of the JI said tariff rates under the slab system need revision because fuel prices have gone down drastically in the past few years.

Referring to the problems faced by citizens when dealing with KE, he said, “IBCs (integrated business centres) are no less than torture cells. KE staff needs training to be courteous. We have had complaints from blind citizens, widows and elderly who have been mistreated by the KE staff at the IBCs.

“If KE can get the hearing postponed, you can well imagine what the staff does with the common man,” he quipped.

On the issue of power theft, he said that KE needs to send in an explanation to the consumers accused of stealing electricity.

“While the case is being heard by Nepra, the consumers should not be asked to pay the bill and the power supply must not be disconnected. We stand with KE and will support them against electricity theft but it needs to streamline its systems,” he said.

Facing repeated disruption from supporters of the power utility, JI Ameer Hafiz Naeem ur Rehman called KE a mafia. The ensuing pandemonium forced the Nepra chief to end the hearing. However, the pro- and anti-KE chants continued outside the hall in the hotel, forcing the staff to intervene.

Talking to Dawn, Pakistan Business Council (PBC) CEO Ehsan Malik said that since KE’s privitisation, the quality of service has improved but there is a dire need to lower the cost of electricity for industries.

“An essential prerequisite is the continued investment in generation, transmission and distribution, which is only possible if a reasonable return on investment is provided by the regulator. Any moves by Nepra that impact future viability and investor sentiment would be detrimental to all consumers,” the PBC said in its letter to the regulator. KE’s Director Marketing Communications Sadia Dada said profitability is important to KE to be able to reinvest in the company. “We have reinvested every single penny in the last nine years. We have put in certain requirements in regard to our transmission and distribution losses. If our profitability increases a certain percentage, we are bound to give back that earning to the consumers.

If this tariff is applied, 45 billion is immediately shaved off the company’s bottom line and the company goes into losses, making it difficult to get investors’ to lend us money and be able to continue with new projects the city needs.”

In a statement, Aamir Ghaziani, Director Finance and Regulations at KE, reassured the utility’s commitment towards meeting the growing power demand and providing reliable and uninterrupted supply to its consumers for which a sustainable tariff would be essential.

Published in Dawn, July 15th, 2017