ISLAMABAD, May 3: Conceding for the first time that the country faces an energy crisis, the government on Thursday confirmed a power shortage of 980-1500MW and announced a number of administrative and persuasive load-management measures to contain loadshedding at below 980MW in peak summer.

The measures include closure of marketing centres and businesses after sunset, diversion of some industrial activity and use of tube-wells away from peak hours and staggering of weekly holidays in the industrial sector. The government rejected a reduction in street-lightening time for security reasons.

“No proposal for two public holidays is on the table,” secretary for water and power Ashfaq Mahmood said at a press conference here on Thursday. He also announced that work on the Neelum-Jhelum hydro power project would be started soon.

He said peak power generation capacity on May 2 was 14,498MW against the demand of 15,476MW, leaving a deficit of 978MW which would remain so over the next three weeks. This would fluctuate, but maximum shortage this year would be of around 1,500MW. The country’s total installed capacity was 19,806MW but many thermal plants were not functioning due to technical problems, he said.

Mr Mahmood said Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz had approved in principle a load management and energy conservation plan on April 30 which “would not hurt the economy” but contain loadshedding below 980MW even in peak summer. He said distribution companies had been asked to make efforts for load management, instead of resorting to “ruthless loadshedding”.

Distribution companies, he said, had also been directed to reduce consumption of power in the evening by diverting industrial activity away from evenings in consultation with the respective industrial sector. This would spare about 260MW of electricity for household sectors. Answering a question, he said it had been decided that power shortage would be distributed across the country on an equitable basis, instead of letting rural areas suffer more than cities.

He said distribution companies would also stagger the timing of industrial activity through shift adjustments and working holiday adjustments in consultation with the industrial sector and respective chambers in accordance with local requirements. This would result in 25 per cent reduction in their existing load requirements. Farmers would be encouraged through tariff measures to stagger their tube-well use in the off-peak hours during the day to save about 100MW.

Mr Mahmood said shops would close at 8pm. He appealed to consumers to switch off one 100-watt bulb each which would save about 1700MW.

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