ISLAMABAD: A Senate panel on Tuesday expressed displeasure over prolonged non-functioning of some generation units at Mangla Dam’s power house that has deprived the country of cheaper energy and sought a report on timelines for introduction of aerial bundled cable (ABC) in the country.
Power Secretary Irfan Ali told the committee that China State Grid was keen to invest in Pakistan’s electricity distribution network through the ABC system, while Malaysia was interested in advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) system and discussions with both were in progress.
A meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on Power was presided over by Senator Fida Mohammad and attended, among others, by Leader of the House Syed Shibli Faraz, Senators Nauman Wazir Khattak, Agha Shahzeb Durrani, Dilawar Khan and Mohammad Akram, the power secretary, K-Electric’s chief managing operations, the managing director of the Peshawar Electric Supply Company and officials from the ministry and attached bodies.
China, Malaysia show interest in making investment in distribution network
The committee was informed that hydropower stations were currently producing about 7,602MW against an installed capacity of about 9,77MW, including about 382MW in the private sector. The average daily generation is estimated to be 5,191MW of the Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) and 252MW of independent power producers.
The meeting was told that some tunnels at Tarbela Dam faced problems about a year ago and hence some of its additional units were turned off for maintenance work, resulting in decreased capacity from some units. The power secretary said that Tarbela’s fourth extension had been repaired now.
However, the committee was surprised to know that one of the major transformers of the Mangla Power Generation System had been out of order for six months and the country was losing around 400-500MW of cheap electricity. Some members of the committee also expressed concern over lower power generation from hydropower plants.
The power secretary told the committee that electricity generation was highly dependent on the water availability, releases on the basis of provincial indents given by the Indus River System Authority (Irsa) because water storages were meant primarily for irrigation and agriculture and the power generation was a byproduct.
Members of the committee observed that the units that produced cheapest electricity should be running at highest possible efficiency and the scheduled maintenance should not come in the peak power usage time. The committee observed that the discussion would be more fruitful if the representatives of the water ministry, Wapda and Irsa were also present in the next meeting.
The meeting was also briefed by K-Electric on overbilling and unscheduled loadshedding as reported in print and electronic media. The KE’s chief managing operations said the company had 29 business centres across Karachi and hence it was reachable to any and all customers through widespread customer complaint call centres. He said 70pc of Karachi’s domestic and 100pc industrial areas were now exempt from loadshedding. He said most of the illegal connections (kundas) had been replaced by ABC connections.
The committee was informed that the billing was being done according to guidelines of the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority and the system had a strong check and balance mechanism.
The power secretary told the meeting that the public sector distribution companies (Discos) were now following the KE model in the rest of the country and slowly the system was changing to ABC transformers. The committee decided to seek information from all Discos as to in how much time period they would be able to have ABC transformers, especially in high-loss areas.
The secretary said the AMI system was not a practical solution in areas where theft was taking place through kundas, rather it was effective in areas with theft through meters. He said AMI was a successful model against electricity theft in Punjab while ABC cabling was a better idea for Discos of Hyderabad, Sukkur and Quetta. He said a delegation of China State Grid would be visiting the power division on Wednesday for discussions on ABC system support to Pakistan and possible investment opportunities. He said Malaysia was also interested in investments in the AMI system.
Senator Nauman Wazir said that most of the electricity theft in the country was taking place not through meters but through direct cables bypassing meters and it could be addressed with the help of ABC system.
While discussing electricity theft, the committee members called for a quantitative collection and study of data about the most common methods of domestic and commercial theft and bring a well-researched proposal to consider whether AMI meters were a better solution or ABC meters.
The committee asked the ministry to hold a single agenda meeting on what systematic changes were being proposed and done in the power sector for sustainable improvement.
Published in Dawn, July 24th, 2019