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LAHORE: Suspension of gas supply to the Kot Addu Power Plant by the Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited (SNGPL) and closure of a couple of oil-fired plants increased electricity shortfall to over 3,000MW on Saturday, forcing the distribution companies to observe loadshedding for four to six hours in urban and six to 10 hours in the rural areas across the country.

In addition to the scheduled loadshedding, distribution companies (DISCOs)—especially three in Punjab– continue to observe forced outages due to overloading of the 220kV and 500kV system of the National Transmission and Despatch Company (NTDC), according to an official source in the power division.

“We finally suspended gas supply—which ranges between 100 to 170MMcf daily — to 1,600MW Kot Addu Power Plant after its management failed to clear our bills amounting to Rs4bn,” SNGPL Managing Director Amjad Latif told Dawn on Saturday.

Situation to worsen as gas supply suspension to more power plants likely over dues

“Sometime back, the Kot Addu Power Company’s total unpaid bills had reached to Rs6bn. Of this, it made a partial payment of Rs3bn. However, it again reached Rs4bn. As soon as they clear the payment, we will restore the gas supply to the plant,” the MD explained. He, however, clarified that the gas supply to other plants was going on since the company is receiving Regasified Liquefied Natural Gas (RLNG) as per its demand without any problem.

According to source, besides Kot Addu, a couple of more plants, including Saphire (near Sheikhupura) are idle these days either due to technical issues or under the government policy of keeping the expensive oil-fired plants closed.

“234MW Saphire plant is idle these days, leading to overloading the 500kV Sheikhupura transmission line, its 220kV circuits and the DISCOs’132kV and 11kV distribution system. Similarly, the 500kV Gatti (Faisalabad) and 500kV Rawat grids are already overloaded due to non-upgradation. This all mess is forcing four companies—Islamabad Electric Supply Company, Gujranwala Electric Power Company, Lahore Electric Supply Company and Faisalabad Electric Supply Company—to observe forced outages in a bid to shed the load and avoid any sort of power breakdown,” the official, who requested anonymity, told this reporter.

On the other hand, another official source in the power division has warned that the situation is likely to worsen in the coming days since a couple of gas-fired plants, mainly the 1,200MW combined cycle Haveli Bahadur Shah Power Plant (Jhang) may be shut in the next four days or so due to non-payment of dues from the central power purchase agency (CPPA).

“The CPPA is not making adequate payments to the management of the HBS plant. For the last many days, the CPPA is paying Rs80 to Rs100m daily to the plant’s management against the total payment of Rs350 to Rs400m. The situation has squeezed the working/operational capital of the company that will finally end after 4/5 days if the CPPA didn’t clear all dues of the management. And if they didn’t do so, the only option, which remains with the company, is to shut the plant,” the official claimed.

The 1,200MW Balloki gas-fired plant may also face closure after 15 to 20 days in case the government didn’t clear its dues worth billions with immediate effect, he warned.

According to a power division’s spokesman, the system faces a shortfall of 2,200MW or so in peak hours. “In the morning, the system had a shortfall of 1,100MW, as the demand and generation was 22,600MW and 21,500MW, respectively. However, it increased to 2,200MW in afternoon (1pm) after the demand climbed to 23,700MW against the available generation of 21,500MW,” he claimed.

He dispelled impression regarding closure of some power plants.

“According to our report, Kot Addu and Saphire plants are working. The power generation recorded is below 1,100MW of the total 1,600MW,” he added.

The spokesman, however, confirmed closure of some of the units of the state-owned generation companies (Gencos) in Muzaffargarh.

Meanwhile, the situation worsened in Lahore and its adjoining districts after the Lesco increased loadshedding for over four hours in urban and eight hours in rural areas.

“For the last couple of days, we are passing through a terrible situation. At present, we are not only facing routine loadshedding but also the forced outages,” said a consumer of Batapur, Lahore.

Published in Dawn, August 12th, 2018