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karachi-loadshedding-file-670
— File Photo

LAHORE: Urban centres endured 18 hours of loadshedding and rural areas virtually remained without electricity after a series of crises hit the power sector over the past two days with generation declining to below 7,000MW against a demand of over 13,000MW.

As if that were not enough, power planners in private conversation conceded that the ground reality was even worse than what the statistics suggested. Officially, the demand and supply gap stood at 60 per cent, but consumers in areas covered by the government utilities were getting only 20pc of the required supply because of various reasons.

“Out of 7,000MW, about 700MW goes to the Karachi Electric Supply Company, reducing the national supply by another 10pc,” said an official of the National Transmission and Dispatch Company.

The supply dropped to 4,500MW after 25pc of the electricity was lost by way of lines losses, theft and transmission inefficiency. Exemptions given to hospitals, the VVIPs (Prime Minister and President Houses) and the defence sector took away another 1,500MW, leaving the net available electricity to the rest of the consumers at 3,000MW.

“These factors led to 18 hours of loadshedding in urban areas and virtually no supply to the quiet rural areas over the past 48 hours,” the official said, adding: “The power sector is on clinical support system and another contingency can lead to total collapse.”

Uch Power (550MW), Habibullah Coastal (125MW) and Sheikh Manda (25MW) were out of the system for the past 36 hours after acts of sabotage damaged gas pipelines feeding their plants, said an official of the Pakistan Electric Power Company (Pepco).

Another 700MW went out of the generation tally because of disruption in oil supply to AES Lal Pir and Pak-Gen on Saturday, he added.

Water releases from Tarbela and Mangla dams were reduced from 35,000 and 25,000 cusecs, respectively, to 22,000 and 20,000 cusecs – which translated into a loss of another 600MW of electricity.

The oil supply fell to 1,600 tonnes against the minimum requirement of 25,000 tonnes.

The caretaker set-up apparently believes administrative reshuffles are enough to take care of the power sector problems and is only focusing on that. “The generation side is still to appear on its mental radar. Till then one can only hope for the best,” the official said.

“It is not the power sector alone, the overall crisis goes much deeper,” said a former managing director of Pepco.

The former MD, who requested anonymity, said the energy sector had been warning the quarters concerned for several months that its installations could come under attack, but no safety measures were taken.

Over the past one week, terrorists attacked four installations, including a 220kv grid station. Four gas pipelines were destroyed over the fortnight, affecting power generation.

“One needs to ask the interior ministry what measures it has taken to protect the power sector installations. The sector is thus in double jeopardy: the dropping generation because of oil, gas and water shortages, and regular attacks on its installations,” he said, calling the problem a national crisis.