All four provinces have finally agreed to observe two government holidays a week in a bid to conserve energy and reduce loadshedding.
Nationwide the change to two-day holidays is expected to save 700 megawatts (MW) a day. The step will also ease the demand on petroleum products, according to an official from the ministry of water and power.
However, the provinces are still to give the nod to closing commercial establishments by 8pm, which would save 250MW.
The decision was made during an inter-ministerial meeting held on Friday and chaired by Water and Power Minister Naveed Qamar. Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani had taken the decision at the National Energy Conference earlier in the month. The provinces said they would issue notifications shortly.
An official, who asked not to be named, said that Qamar also took up the issue of outstanding debts owed by the provinces.
“The chief ministers of Punjab and Sindh had committed to pay Rs4 billion and Rs3 billion respectively in one and half months but the commitment has not been honoured,” the official said, adding that provincial representatives have now given their assurance to fulfill their duties. Sindh owes Rs40 billion and Punjab Rs15 billion.
The official said that a major reason for prolonged power outages was the drop in hydel power generation, as water levels in reservoirs have reduced significantly. Tarbela and Chashma are running dry, though Mangla Dam has some water storage. The chronic issue of circular debt was also pointed to.
According to a statement from the Water and Power Ministry, attendees of the meeting were told that a plan of equitable loadshedding in the major cities and industrial sector, keeping in view the daily demand and supply situation, is being implemented. The provinces were requested to finalise and implement the rest of the recommendations from the energy conference, such as closure of commercial establishments at 8pm.
The minister directed the National Power Control Center to share power generation as well as demand and supply data along with the load management plans with the provinces on a daily basis. Qamar also asked the ministry to submit a revision of the Electricity Act 1910 with major punishments for electricity theft, as decided at the energy conference, at the next meeting of the Council of Common Interests (CCI) The official said that Law Ministry had informed the Water and Power Ministry that a law already existed to punish the consumers involved in power theft.
“Now, different proposals would be submitted to the CCI after consultation with stakeholders,” an official said, adding that one proposal is for five-year sentences and Rs500,000 fines for those involved in power theft.
The meeting was also informed by the Petroleum Secretary that 134 MMCFD additional gas has been allocated for power the sector, and that Nepra has been asked to increase the life line consumer slab to 100 units. The decision regarding the disconnection of billboards is being implemented along with alternate switching of streetlights.
Earlier, provincial representatives gave a briefing on loadshedding in their respective provinces and expressed their points of view. The meeting also discussed the implementation on other decisions taken at the energy conference, such as the installation of pre-paid meters by the Discos (the power distribution companies) in the federal and provincial offices and the replacement of florescent bulbs with compact fluorescent lamps.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 21st, 2012.
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