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ISLAMABAD: While the federal government has already announced it has overcome electricity shortage, power loadshedding returned with a bang on Tuesday when the mercury rose to 49 degrees centigrade in some parts of the country and transmission system and power plants tripped amid falling fuel stocks.

For the power shortfall, which exceeded 5,000 megawatts, the energy ministry’s power division looking after the national grid and distribution system attributed the revival of power outages to unavailability of Balloki, Bhikki, Haveli Bahadur Shah power plants, four nuclear plants, Neelum-Jhelum and other hydropower stations.

Officials in the petroleum division of the ministry of energy said it was just the beginning as furnace oil stocks were at a very low level and the oil shipments due to the belated permission given by Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi might not arrive before May 3.

“Even arrival of ships alone is not enough,” said a senior petroleum division official. He said the entire supply chain from berthing to product offloading, pumping to the pipeline or tankers, and its transportation to power houses required between three and 15 days, depending on the location of the power plants in Karachi or Lahore.

“It would, therefore, require a seamless coordination among the operational entities — PSO, port authorities, transport operators, power plant operators and the two divisions concerned — to work day and night” to complete the process, he added.

Furnace oil shipments to arrive in next two weeks due to delayed permission by PM for import

“The margin of error is zero this time,” the official said, adding that any delay would cost the PML-N government high before the upcoming general elections as it had already announced it had overcome power shortage.

While the officials said the overall shortfall excee­ded 5,000MW, informed sources said the power cuts to the consumers hovered between 7,000MW and 8,000MW including transformational, transmission and distribution losses as well as non-withdrawal of power by distribution companies. The network operators had to resort to forced loadshedding to avoid system collapse.

As a result, consumers in category-1 (feeders having less than 10 per cent loss areas) also suffered four- to six-hour-long power cuts though they are out of the approved load management policy of the government.

The power division auth­orities claimed the situation was almost under control but warned that the next 36 hours could be critical.

On Tuesday evening, the power division directed the distribution companies to limit their power withdrawals within approved quota and ensure that category-1 feeders, comprising 61 per cent of service areas, suffer the least and park maximum shortage in high-loss areas. Such areas, therefore, suffered prolonged power cuts ranging between 12 and 14 hours a day.

The petroleum division officials said the fuel stock at the Hubco plant was less than three days of consumption while Bin Qasim plant of K-Electric had five-day stocks. The situation in Punjab was not well either.

They said all the six ships transporting a total of 420,000 tonnes of fuel would arrive between May 3 and 14.

“Power production will fall drastically ahead of the holy month of Ramazan if the supply chain is not managed effectively,” said a senior petroleum division official.

He added that the countrywide stocks had been depleting fast since the time when an urgent tender was floated in the early April 2018 by PSO following instructions of the economic coordination committee of the cabinet.

“The stock available for use with power generation companies across the country is depleting fast while the situation with Karachi-based power generation units is critical with furnace oil stock available only for consumption only less than a week,” the official said.

Only a few days ago, the government directed the Pakistan State Oil (PSO) to float a tender to urgently order furnace oil cargo. The government had decided in January to ban the import of furnace oil.

PSO’s total receivables on Tuesday stood at Rs312 billion, including Rs261 billion payable by power sector, Rs26 billion by gas companies for LNG and Rs26 billion by PIA and the government.

Power plants trip

A power division spokesman said the 220kV National Transmission and Dispatch Company (NTDC) high-transmission circuits such as 220kV Daudkhel, 220kV Bannu, 220kV Ludewala and the four Chashma Nuclear Power Plants of 1,200MW tripped at 1:30am on Tuesday. In a written statement, the spokesman said supply to these power plants (C-I, C-II, C-III and C-IV) had been restored by mid-day and 220kV NTDC lines energized. However, the restoration of generation from these plants would take time as a definite protocol had to be followed, the statement said.

The spokesman also said the RLNG-based power plants — Havelli Bahadar Shah, Bhikki and Balloki (with a total generation capacity of 3,600MW) — were in a testing phase with no power generation from these plants currently available. The hydropower generation was also low due to the low water release from reservoirs. Besides, he added, the new Neelum-Jehlum power plants, too, were in testing phase.

The power division spokesman described the situation of the national grid as “temporary due to unavoidable situation”. He said the consumers would be provided relief as soon as any plant would start generation. He appealed to the consumers to adopt energy conservation practices.

Published in Dawn, May 2nd, 2018