Outsourcing of power dues recovery under consideration

Updated January 19, 2019

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PAC’s sub-committee looks into losses of power distribution companies. — File photo
PAC’s sub-committee looks into losses of power distribution companies. — File photo

ISLAMABAD: Secretary of the Ministry of Energy (power division) Irfan Ali has hinted at outsourcing the collection of electricity bills in a bid to overcome difficulties in the recovery of dues.

“Distribution companies will focus only on distributing electricity,” the secretary informed a sub-committee of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) while providing a solution to improve the system and minimise losses in the power sector.

The committee met on Friday under its convener Senator Shibli Faraz to look into the issue of overall losses in all distribution companies (Discos). The CEOs of Discos and senior officials of the power division attended the meeting.

Members of the sub-committee felt that the significant quantum of theft in the power sector was bleeding the national economy.

PAC’s sub-committee looks into losses of power distribution companies

Irfan Ali attributed loadshedding to electricity theft and not to issues relating to generation and transmission.

“People have been stealing electricity in collusion with officials in departments. Entire settlements are running on direct connections. However, a massive drive is under way to put an end to corruption in the departments. Sustained efforts to prevent theft are required. Responsibilities are being fixed. More than 16, 000 first information reports (FIRs) have been registered, besides detecting bills worth billions of rupees. Loadshedding can end if theft is stopped completely,” he said.

The drive against theft of electricity began from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, extending to Sindh where the problem of theft has been addressed on some 40 feeders of the Hyderabad Electricity Supply Company (Hesco) and loadshedding ended. In Punjab, the problem of theft was sophisticated and yet to be overcome, the secretary said, adding that “little success has been achieved in Balochistan due to security reasons”.

Answering a question by the chairman of the committee about the total demand and supply of electricity, Mr Ali said the total installed capacity to produce electricity stood at 32,000MW, while the de-rated capacity was between 28,000MW and 29,000MW.

“During peak days such as in June, the demand for electricity reaches 25,000MW. By April, we will be able to transmit 24,000MW and increase it to 25,000 MW by June,” he said.

In reply to another question, the secretary said that rehabilitation of Discos was being planned and a solution would be found over the next two to three months.

He hinted at installing equipment such as cables and electricity metres that would be difficult to tamper with, especially in Punjab.

The meeting also discussed the possibility of exploring cheaper sources of power generation, including renewable energy.

When Senator Faraz asked why solar and wind energy had not been exploited in the past to meet energy demands of the future, Mr Ali said that renewable energy did not figure in the past considering the cost of tapping renewable energy sources.

“However, there is significant capacity to generate power using solar and wind energy. In order to utilise renewable energy sources, the costs, which are still on the higher side, will have to be competitive,” the secretary explained.

Published in Dawn, January 19th, 2019