ISLAMABAD: Taking notice of prolonged and unscheduled power cuts in Karachi, the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra) on Tuesday constituted a five-member team to investigate affairs of the K-Electric.

In an announcement, the power regulator said it had sought an explanation from the KE over the power situation prevailing in the port city and was dissatisfied with the clarifications from the country’s only private sector power utility.

“Nepra has taken serious notice of additional 10 hours unscheduled loadshedding in Karachi during the prevailing harsh weather,” said the regulator while announcing a committee to probe the matter.

The special investigation team would be led by Nepra’s senior technical adviser Husnain Zaigham and consultant Masood Akhtar, senior assistant director (standards) Hafiz Irfan Ahmad, assistant director (standards) Husnain Gohar, and assistant director (technical) Junaid Ahmed would be its members.

The team would visit the KE from April 11 to 13 and submit a report to the five-member Nepra authority along with recommendations.

Regulator takes notice of prolonged, unscheduled outages in Karachi

KE spokesperson Sadia Dada said the Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC) had cut 100mmcfd gas supply to the power utility due to which it had suffered a 500MW electricity shortfall as plants on said gas supply were lying idle. As a result, the residents in Karachi are facing two to three hours of additional loadshedding.

She said the KE would be sharing all the data with the Nepra team and would take them through its power plants and installations.

The Nepra move to appoint an investigation team came a day after Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah sought the federal government’s intervention to resolve a dispute between two Karachi-based electricity and gas utilities — KE and SSGC — to provide relief to the residents and businesses in Karachi.

Mr Shah reported to the prime minister that people of Karachi were enduring 10-hour loadshedding on a daily basis when temperatures were continuously rising and taking a heavy toll on students who were appearing in the secondary school board examinations. Such a situation could create a law and order problem, he warned.

The two utilities have been involved in a dispute for almost three years over outstanding payments and reduced gas supplies. Early this month, the gas utility made a conditional offer to increase gas supply to the KE for a few days but not without settlement of Rs80 billion arrears.

Insiders said besides its own gas constraints, the SSGC was sensitive to any ‘irregular gas supply’ because of ongoing examination of its record by the country’s accountability apparatus and wanted to secure its side and reduce outstanding liabilities in case of the KE’s transfer to the Shanghai Electric Power Limited (SEPL) of China from the current management of Abraaj Capital.

The federal government decided last month to issue a national security certificate for the sale of shares held by the KES Power Ltd in the K-Electric Ltd (KEL) to the Chinese multinational SEPL

The SSGCL said it was facing continuous shortage of 250mmcfd of gas due to depletion of reservoirs at different gas fields and on the contrary increasing demand, particularly in the domestic sector. In addition, it has started supplying 20mmcfd gas to the Sindh Nooriabad Power Company during this financial year as per the gas sale agreement.

It said the KE was categorically told in April last year that it would be very difficult to sustain even existing supplies. The gas company said it was struggling to meet obligatory requirements of customers having gas sales agreements, making full payments, including advance security deposits.

The gas company said the KE was not providing security deposit equal to three-month billing or Rs7.2bn. Also, the “FIA is probing the continuous supply of gas to K-Electric by SSGC despite huge over dues on K-Electric against the gas sale”.

The KE said the power utility had never defaulted in payment of its current gas bills during the past five years and its old principle outstanding gas bills were only Rs13.7bn while the remaining amount of Rs66bn was interest which had been challenged in court.

Published in Dawn, April 11th, 2018

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