LAHORE: Taking action over increasing public complaints about loadshedding across the country, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Sunday ordered an early resumption of power generation from the plants closed due to various administrative and technical issues.
The prime minister sought a detailed report from the power division highlighting the reasons behind loadshedding, its solution and measures taken by the government so far. He also directed the authorities concerned to quickly resolve the issues concerning provision of drinking water and agricultural facilities, including supply of adequate water for irrigation purposes, to the provinces and enable the Indus River System Authority (Irsa) to take decisions in consultation with the provinces.
“The [power] plants, which are not in operation these days, must be operated with immediate effect in a bid to end loadshedding and give relief to the public at large,” PM Sharif ordered at a high-level meeting in Lahore.
The meeting, which was attended by Finance Minister Miftah Ismail, Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal, Minister for Energy Khurram Dastgir, Minister of State for Petroleum Musaddaq Malik, Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb, former premier Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Special Assistant to the PM on Public Policy and Strategic Communication Fahd Husain, discussed the power crisis and suggested various measures to resolve it.
Discusses political situation with Chaudhry Shujaat
The ministers concerned briefed the meeting on the causes behind loadshedding which, according to them, are due to acts of omission and commission by the previous PTI government.
The meeting was told that two power projects — Karot Hydro and Shanghai Thar — were delayed, first on account of lack of ownership and monitoring and then because of failure to fulfil contractual commitments on already completed projects, thus delaying financial close.
The government’s failure to open Revolving Account for the completed projects like Sahiwal Coal and Hub Power meant no further financing for the energy sector under the CPEC umbrella. The previous government also did not understand the CPEC’s energy framework as it was simply out there to strangle and slow it.
Another high-efficiency project — Punjab Thermal RLNG Power Plant at Trimmu, Jhang (1,263MW) — was also delayed for more than three years by the PTI government.
Had these three projects (3,200MW) been completed on time, loadshedding in urban parts of the country would not have been witnessed despite high energy prices in the international market, the meeting was told.
The prime minister was informed that during the Covid-19 pandemic (mid-2020), RLNG prices went far lower in the international market, but that opportunity of buying RLNG at $3-5 per MMBTU was not availed by the then government and no long-term contract was made. Had such contract been signed, the consumers would have paid much lower electricity bills.
On circular debt, PM Sharif was informed that it stood at Rs1.152 trillion in June 2018, which rose to Rs2.467tr in March 2022, an increase of 114 per cent, despite major injection out of taxpayers’ money. One of the major causes of this rapid rise in circular debt is depreciation of the rupee from Rs115 per dollar to Rs191 under the watch of the PTI government and under the caretaker arrangement which was put in place before that.
It was further revealed that under the executed LNG supply contracts with Qatar Petroleum/Qatar Energy, the state-run PSO imported 5+2 LNG cargoes, whereas PLL is left with one LNG supply contract with ENI Italy as the other supplier — M/s Guvnor — prematurely terminated the contract in April 2022, following a series of consistent default in supply of cargoes since year 2021.
The premier was told that his office made spot purchasing of LNG from April till June 2022 for enhanced RLNG supplies to the power sector. It also ensured supply to power plants to the maximum extent possible against the demand raised. In order to control loadshedding, effective July 2022, RLNG has fully been curtailed for captive (export and non-export) for supply to power plants from July 1 to 8.
PM Sharif, who once led public protests in Lahore against loadshedding during the PPP-led government before 2013, heard and discussed issues in depth and directed the participants to make efforts to overcome the energy crisis in the country.
PM meets Shujaat
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Sunday called PML-Q president Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain to inquire about his health and discussed matters of mutual interest and the prevailing political situation in the country.
Though there was no official word neither from the government nor from the media cell of the PML-Q leader, a media website reported that Mr Hussain lauded PM Sharif for focusing on agriculture in the federal budget.
The PML-Q president said the coalition government did practical work for the farmers, besides taking measures to offer direct benefit to the consumers. He also stressed that the government should take initiatives to grow crop seeds in Pakistan instead of importing them.
Federal minister Salik Hussain, provincial minister Malik Ahmad Khan and Chaudhry Shafay Hussain were present in the meeting.
Published in Dawn, July 4th, 2022