ISLAMABAD: The government has revived the ADB-sponsored Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) programme that was earlier rejected by former power minister in PML-N government over ‘technical shortcomings’.
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has already agreed to restore the $900 million first-phase of the AMI programme that envisaged smart metering having two-way communication for two distribution companies of Lahore and Islamabad to tackle power theft. The expansion of the AMI along with aerial bundle cable (ABC) of distribution lines to all 10 ex-Wapda distribution companies (Discos) are estimated to cost about $5 billion.
The two Discos — Lesco and Iesco — had shelved the bidding for the induction of AMI meters at an advanced stage on the orders of then power minister Awais Leghari.
The incumbent power minister Omar Ayub Khan said last week that his division had finalised a $900m loan with the ADB to introduce AMI meters having two-way reading for Islamabad and Lahore Electric Supply Companies.
On Monday, the minister had a meeting with the Ambassador of France to Pakistan Marc Baréty and briefed him about the proposed plan for introduction of AMI and ABC programme. The ambassador said two French companies wanted investment in Pakistan’s power sector.
The minister said that new technology would be installed initially in the premises of Iesco, Pesco and Lesco with an estimated cost of $900m to be provided by the ADB. He said the Power Division was also engaging with the provinces on creation of special task forces with the support of provincial governments, local authorities and law enforcement agencies for crackdown against electricity theft.
“These steps will not only reduce power theft but will also lead to decline in circular debt. Transmission and distribution capacity of electricity will be increased by Metering Tree and introduction of ABC cable,” he said.
In February this year, the Power Division had rejected the AMI programme after paying about $1m in commitment charges. The project was planned for the power distribution network with the hope of accurate billing, improved collection and theft reduction.
It was reported by the Power Division at the time that ADB-funded smart metering had many shortcomings and had been opposed by the Discos because of long term risks.
The Power Division had then requested the ADB to divert first part of the financing to some other critical areas of distribution network even though a team of ADB threatened the move could ‘blacklist’ Pakistan’s distribution network from future financing.
The plan would now be finalised with some modification, an official said. The original plan involved replacing 30 per cent existing meters from all Discos, starting with two selected companies. The entire project across the distribution system would have taken almost a decade to complete.
Published in Dawn, October 30th, 2018