KARACHI: Around two dozen deaths from electrocution during the recent rains in Karachi finally got the attention of the national power regulator that has formally launched a probe against K-Electric, it emerged on Saturday.

Announcing the initiative, the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra) stated that the investigation was ordered under Section 27-A of the Regulation of Generation, Transmission and Distribution of Electric Power Act, 1997 against the KE “to ascertain the underlying facts leading to the fatal and non-fatal accidents” during rains in Karachi.

A press release issued by Nepra said Karachi had witnessed widespread monsoon rains that wreaked havoc on the city due to flooding and accumulation of rainwater. A large number of fatal and non-fatal accidents occurred due to electrocution and prolonged power outages were experienced in large parts of the city.

Power utility fully cooperating with Nepra and police, says K-Electric CEO

“These prima facie facts indicate possible violations of Nepra-administered laws, codes, standards and other applicable documents by KE,” it said, adding that the probe would “determine whether any violation or non-compliance of law and applicable documents has been committed by KE, which caused loss of life and suspension of power supply to consumers”.

Without disclosing number of senior officers who it said had been appointed as investigating officers in the matter, the power regulator stated: “Five days have been given for concluding the investigation”.

Just a day ago, KE chief executive officer Moonis Alvi told a private TV channel that the power utility was fully cooperating with Nepra as well as police in their investigations about the deaths of people from electrocution. He said the KE infrastructure was apparently involved in ‘five deaths’, but the power utility was investigating the incidents and would share the findings with Nepra as well as police and media.

Earlier in July when Karachi had seen deaths of over a dozen people from electrocution during the first spell of monsoon rains, Nepra had claimed to have taken “serious notice” of the media reports regarding power outages and loss of human lives.

In a press release issued on July 29, the regulator said it was disturbing to note that the KE complaint centres were not responding to telephone calls of consumers. “Therefore, Nepra has directed KE to submit a report about failure of its pre-emptive measures as the rain was expected. Nepra has also directed the KE to take remedial measures for restoration of power supply at the earliest,” it stated.

In response, the KE told the regulator earlier this month about its intentions to declare “force majeure” — a legal term used for inability to meet performance standards and contractual obligations because of circumstances beyond its control — under Rule 10 of the Nepra Performance Standards (Distribution) Rules, 2005, for the period July 29, 2019 and onwards.

The KE told Nepra that it would submit a detailed report along with force majeure request within 14 days as allowed under Rule 10(3) of the Nepra rules.

Under the said rules, fines shall not be imposed in case of non-compliance of guaranteed performance standards under force majeure conditions in the event circumstances that increment an annual count of a particular Guaranteed Performance Standard. The company can declare the exemption from penalties for failure to deliver on performance standards or meet contractual obligations about service delivery due to extreme, peculiar and unusual circumstances only.

While many Karachi areas remained without electricity for more than 24 hours during the first spell of showers in July, the KE told Nepra that for any given point in time the maximum outage in terms of areas was well within comfortable limits.

Published in Dawn, August 18th, 2019