• Senate body calls govt’s top law officer for briefing
• Member slams Nepra for ‘protecting’ interests of IPPs
ISLAMABAD: A Senate panel was informed on Wednesday that “commercial and foreign concerns” were major impediments to completing the long-delayed Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project.
However, officials assured the meeting that efforts for the swift completion of the project have been expedited.
The Senate Standing Committee on Cabinet Secretariat, which met with Saadia Abbasi in the chair, decided to invite the attorney general for Pakistan at the next meeting for a detailed briefing on the issue.
The chairperson inquired about the future prospects of the project, which has been delayed for a decade. The officials told the meeting that negotiations on the project were expedited last year. However, they pointed out, commercial and foreign concerns were the major impediments to the completion of the project.
The committee then decided to have a briefing from the AGP at the next meeting.
The committee also deliberated on the proposed increase of gas prices and its use across the country. The officials informed the meeting that around 2,900 million cubic feet (MMcf/d) natural gas was being produced in the country — 400MMcf/d in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 750MMcf/d in Balochistan, 100MMcf/d in Punjab and 1,650MMcf/d in Sindh.
The committee was told that on average 28 per cent of locally-produced plus imported gas is being consumed by the power sector, 26pc by the domestic sector, 18pc by the industry, and 22pc is being supplied to the fertiliser companies.
Senator Abbasi remarked that fertiliser companies utilised the major portion of cheap natural gas, and yet farmers were compelled to buy fertiliser at inflated rates.
The officials stated that gas to the fertiliser companies had been provided at the old price of Rs302. However, he added, the per bag price of urea had been doubled as compared to Rs1,700 per bag in 2020.
It was also informed that gas prices had not been raised since 2020 and that a letter had been written to the petroleum division for an increase to ease the Rs2 trillion circular debt and meet the gas demand in winter.
The committee also received a briefing on the hike in electricity prices and its impact on the masses.
The chairman of the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra) said the organisation is mandated to provide safe electricity at affordable prices, adding that currently consumers had been charged Rs45.06 per unit which includes taxes — mainly capacity charges and energy charges — as well as margin of the distribution companies.
However, he said, recent macroeconomics indicators had resulted in an increase of Rs3.17 per unit.
He informed the panel that the country’s electricity generating capacity stood at around 44,000MW, adding that currently 25,000MW to 26,000MW is being produced by the country, 70pc of which came from independent power producers (IPPs).
In reply to a question posed by Senator Mushtaq Ahmad Khan, the Nepra chairman said that power generating licence to the IPPs had been provided by the government of Pakistan.
Senator Khan emphasised that the energy crisis cannot be resolved without reviewing the “unholy agreements” with IPPs and it had been proved that Nepra had failed to provide affordable energy to local consumers as per their mandate, rather it only served as a catalyst, protecting the interests of IPPs.
Senator Saadia Abbasi directed Nepra to provide details of fuel price adjustment charges and capacity payments being paid to the IPPs in the year 2023.
Published in Dawn, September 28th, 2023