KARACHI: Port Qasim Electric Power Company Ltd (PQEPC), which runs a $1.9 billion power plant of 1,320 megawatts on imported coal, has served a formal notice of payment default on the Central Power Purchasing Agency (CPPA).

The total verified due amount that the state-backed, sole electricity purchaser owes the independent power producer (IPP) amounted to Rs77.3bn or $263.5 million as of May 15, according to PQEPC CEO Guo Guangling.

Owned by China’s Sinohydro Resources Ltd and Qatar’s Al Mirqab Capital Ltd, the IPP was part of the early-harvest phase of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

Its power purchase agreement states that a failure to pay an undisputed amount by the CPPA within 35 days of the notice will constitute the power purchaser event of default.

Non-payment will trigger ‘power purchaser event of default’ in 35 days

The IPP has demanded that the power purchaser must make a principal payment of $73.6m before May 31 to avoid a “facility agreement default” as well as a Government of Pakistan or “GoP default”.

“Unlike the hydro, wind and solar power projects, the company, as (an) imported coal power project, requires a constant and large amount of cash flow to purchase coal and clear overdue amounts with coal suppliers for sustainable operations,” said Mr Guo.

Separately, Engro Powergen Thar Ltd, which operates a $995.4m power plant of 660MW on local coal, has told the CPPA it may shut down operations entirely because of a “severe liquidity crunch” that’s made it challenging for the IPP to settle its liabilities with both lenders and suppliers.

Its outstanding receivables from the power purchaser amount to Rs65.5bn. The IPP has demanded the CPPA pay it Rs28.7bn before May 31 to help it avert a default on debt servicing.

Disbursement formula

Lucky Electric Power Company Ltd, which runs a $1bn a coal-fired 660MW plant, has demanded the government should change the formula for allocating payments to IPPs, which is currently based on overdue amounts and doesn’t prioritise energy and debt servicing requirements of electricity generators.

In other words, the current practice ensures that the CPPA disburses payments, including subsidies, among all power plants, which include even those that have remained idle due to their high unit costs.

As a result, old IPPs that have already repaid their debts and currently bill only capacity payments for their return on equity (RoE) and fixed operation and maintenance (O&M) components receive disproportionately higher payments.

In contrast, newer plants on cheaper fuels that are regularly despatched end up spending most of the payments received from the CPPA on their fuel suppliers and O&M contractors.

In a recent letter to the power purchaser, the IPP demanded that the existing allocation formula be amended to incorporate a waterfall mechanism i.e. a method that makes due payment in order of priority, albeit with exceptions and qualifications.

It demanded that the CPPA prioritise the energy and debt components in its payments while the remainder be paid to all IPPs based on their over-dues. “This will help in ensuring sustainable plant operations of the IPPs on top of the merit order and avoid any disruption in fuel supplies and also honour debt servicing payments.”

Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and Energy Minister Khurram Dastgir Khan didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Published in Dawn, May 31st, 2023

Follow Dawn Business on Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook for insights on business, finance and tech from Pakistan and across the world.

Opinion

Editorial

Slow start
Updated 15 Jun, 2024

Slow start

Despite high attendance, the NA managed to pass only a single money bill during this period.
Sindh lawlessness
Updated 15 Jun, 2024

Sindh lawlessness

A recently released report describes the law and order situation in Karachi as “worryingly poor”.
Punjab budget
15 Jun, 2024

Punjab budget

PUNJAB’S budget for 2024-25 provides much fodder to those who believe that the increased provincial share from the...
Budget and politics
Updated 14 Jun, 2024

Budget and politics

PML-N, scared of taking bold steps lest it loses whatever little public support it has, has left its traditional support — traders — virtually untouched.
New talks?
14 Jun, 2024

New talks?

WILL this prove another false start, or may we expect a more sincere effort this time? Reference is made to the...
A non-starter
14 Jun, 2024

A non-starter

WHILE the UN Security Council had earlier this week adopted a US-backed resolution calling for a ceasefire in Gaza...