ISLAMABAD: Amid institutional disagreement over reasons behind the recent power shortfalls despite surplus capacity, the Cabinet Committee on Energy (CCoE) on Thursday once again approved the merger of two power sector agencies — Alternative Energy Development Board (AEDB) and Private Power & Infrastructure Board (PPIB).
The CCoE meeting was presided over by Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar.
Informed sources said the reasons explained by Power Secretary Ali Reza Bhutta were challenged by Railways Minister Azam Khan Swati and National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra) Chairman Tauseef H Farooqui.
The Power Division briefed the committee on the causes of electricity shortages faced in recent days. Electricity shortage and resultant load shedding was caused by a combination of factors including a drop in electricity generation at Tarbela and fuel supply disruption faced by Coal Power Plant at Sahiwal due to train accident as well as localised transmission constraints, the CCoE was informed. The Power Division said the concurrent rise in industrial sector demand and higher than usual temperatures also led to sudden shortages.
The Nepra chairman, the source said, contested the explanations and maintained that the closure of some power plants against the advice of the regulator was also a factor on top of non-availability of liquefied natural gas (LNG) when it was required the most.
The Railway minister also denied any disruption in coal transportation and said that this was an “outright misstatement”. Mr Swati said the rail track was repaired at the earliest and he personally ensured that first coach carrying coal was cleared within 24 hours of the accident.
The Secretary Power, however, did not agree to the Nepra chairman’s view. A power ministry official said the Nepra chairman was always part of the CCoE and closure of plants was decided by the committee. Also, the regulator appeared to be pushing for some projects already in the pipeline including renewable energy projects for which open bidding was required. The Power Division demanded that there should be at least a two-year cap on approval of projects including renewable projects which were not in implementation phase because about 23,000MW of projects were in various stages and would be commissioned by 2030.
The CCoE agreed to a summary submitted by Power Division proposing merger of the AEDB and PPIB and recommended its submission to the federal cabinet for formal approval. The merger was also approved about five-years ago by the then federal cabinet but the decision could not be implemented due to change of government.
The CCoE considered another summary of the Power Division proposing revision in the approved plan for closure of power plants. The committee further directed that the matter relating to assets of decommissioned power plants may be submitted to the Cabinet Committee on Privatisation.
Published in Dawn, June 18th, 2021