Centre to take over KE if performance not improved, warns Asad Umar

Updated 12 Jul 2020

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Asad Umar held a meeting with the KE management along with the Sindh governor conveying serious warning to the power utility. — DawnNewsTV
Asad Umar held a meeting with the KE management along with the Sindh governor conveying serious warning to the power utility. — DawnNewsTV

KARACHI: The K-Electric came under fire on Saturday when federal authorities rejected its claim that it was carrying out loadshedding in the city because of supply shortfall and warned that the federal government could take control of the power utility if it failed to improve its performance.

The warning came at a meeting jointly chaired by Sindh Governor Imran Ismail and Planning and Development Minister Asad Umar here at Governor House.

They came down hard on senior KE officials who briefed the key leaders of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government about the reasons behind the recent power crisis.

The meeting was also attended by PTI legislators from Karachi and other members of the federal government through video link.

“The shortfall allows loadshedding just for an hour in the city but the KE keeps supply suspended for six and seven hours,” a statement quoted the Sindh governor as telling the KE, which claimed to have faced a shortfall of 250 megawatts.

Governor Ismail feels the power utility is more interested in its profit margins instead of consumers

“The federal government provided everything and met every demand of the company but it has badly failed to bring any improvement. The federal government still offers an additional supply to the KE from the national grid but its system cannot afford more than 720 megawatt,” he said.

He said the company over the years had not made any investment to build capacity and now the people were being punished for its ineffective policies.

‘KE is more concerned about profits’

“It seems the KE is more concerned about its profits instead of its consumers,” remarked the Sindh governor.

He added that the federal government was supplying 4,500 tonnes furnace oil to the company and it could offer another 500 tonnes. “If there’s the issue of gas pressure at the Bin Qasim Power Plant, it can be run on furnace oil,” he said.

Growing protests by political parties, heightening anger among consumers and persistent poor performance of the KE attracted the attention of Prime Minister Imran Khan, who on Thursday directed his team to meet the company’s management and fix the problems being faced by Karachiites.

The intervention from the top came after Sindh Governor Ismail met the prime minister in Islamabad the other day to brief the premier on the ongoing electricity crisis in Karachi and the situation that emerged across Sindh against the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic.

Just a day after his directives, Federal Minister Umar landed in Karachi and held a meeting with the KE management along with the Sindh governor conveying serious warning to the power utility.

“The KE needs to plan for the future on a fast track,” he said. “The peak hour demand of Karachi stands at 3,500MW to 3,600MW. The KE has to plan to include 2,100MW in its system in the next three years. If situation doesn’t improve, the federal government would take over the KE,” came the point-blank warning.

The warning from the federal government came after weeks of protests by political parties, including the PTI which rules the centre.

With the Jamaat-i-Islami and Pak Sarzameen Party calling upon the chief justice of Pakistan to take notice of unannounced loadshedding and overbilling by KE, the PTI for the last several days has been staging a sit-in outside the utility’s head office, demanding an end to its monopoly on electricity generation, transmission and distribution.

The Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan — an ally of the PTI government at the centre — has also announced that its parliamentarians would hold a protest demonstration against KE in Islamabad on July 14.

At the Governor House meeting, the KE management also came up with its plans for the future and briefed about the reasons behind the recent crisis, which were mostly rejected by the federal government.

“The KE is supplying 2,950MW to the city and facing a shortfall of 250MW,” the statement quoted a KE official as telling the briefing. “By the end of next year, the KE would add 800MW in the system. The company also plans to add 800MW each in 2022 and 2023.”

Published in Dawn, July 12th, 2020