ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on Tuesday ordered that ongoing projects and conversion of furnace oil-based plants to natural gas must be expedited.

The power shortfall on Tuesday exceeded by 5,000MW as demand surged past 23,500MW against maximum supplies of about 18,500MW. The shortage happened despite a healthy contribution of about 6,400MW by hydropower plants.

According to power sector officials, the demand was driven by extreme humid conditions across the country and further aggravated by localised tripping of distribution lines and transformers in many parts.

The breakdown of a transmission line close to Rawat near Islamabad — linking Mangla dam supplies and Sangjani transmission line — affected some parts of the capital city for a couple of hours, an official said.

Supplies from some new power plants — Haveli Bahadur Shah, Bhikki and Sahiwal — remained erratic due to teething problems arising out of their continuing reliability test runs.

The prime minister was presiding over the first meeting of the energy sector, following his orders last week for restructuring and merging the water, power and petroleum divisions. The prime minister constituted a committee — led by Secretary Water and Power Yousaf Naseem Khokhar — to coordinate issues in power infrastructure projects.

The govt faces the tough task of reducing energy shortfall which exceeds 5,000MW

The committee will comprise top officials of the water, power and petroleum divisions, Prime Minister’s Office, Private Power and Infrastructure Board, Central Power Purchase Agency, and National Transmission and Dispatch Company.

The prime minister reminded the participants, among them ministers of state for power and petroleum, that fulfillment of PML-N’s promise to end loadshedding during its term would remain the highest priority.

The prime minister was updated on the teething problems which were described as a normal phenomenon.

The “on-off cycles” of these plants help reduce shortages when functional but they need to be cooled down for checks and replaced with another under-test plant and vice versa, he was informed.

The prime minister was also informed that public sector generation plants were providing about 3,000MW of electricity while more than 9,000MW came from independent power plants and small renewables.

The prime minister was informed that Balloki Power Plant was almost ready to be inaugurated amid a trial run on half its 1,200MW capacity.

The prime minister directed the newly created committee to extend maximum support to power producers who were ready to switch to liquefied natural gas (LNG) to secure price savings.

The prime minister also explained the rationale of distribution of work among ministries.

He said water security was an important concern for the government and people of Pakistan. A dedicated ministry for water resources was required to handle these issues and to cater for improved management of water resources and hence a separate ministry was essential, he said.

On the creation of new Ministry of Energy, the prime minister explained that it was necessary to remove firewalls between the petroleum and power sectors which were otherwise linked for a common objective of energy security in Pakistan.

He directed the power and petroleum divisions to formulate a roadmap to reduce usage of thermal power sources and instead focus on natural gas and domestic coal for energy production.

“Our government is striving to achieve a balanced mix for the country’s energy requirements and maximum utilisation of Thar coal reserves should be ensured to provide affordable energy for consumers,” the prime minister said.

He directed the Water Resource Division to work on planning for water storage projects on fast track. “There is no room for non-optimal solution in our energy framework,” he emphasised.

Published in Dawn, August 9th, 2017