The cabinet on Wednesday failed to reach a decision on a programme aimed at avoiding the wrath of the people in next general elections by reducing electricity outages by 40% for residential consumers of urban and rural areas and enforcing power cuts on cement, textile and processing industries.
The programme, proposed by the Ministry of Water and Power, will help manage the massive power shortfall of over 6,000 megawatts, which has caused load-shedding and sparked popular protests.
According to a presentation, the Ministry of Water and Power, in a bid to placate angry protesters, proposed less load-shedding of four to eight hours for domestic consumers compared to existing 10 to 12 hours.
To implement this plan, the ministry suggested enforcing six hours of load-shedding on cement, textile and processing industries – hitherto exempted – and enhancing outages for other industries from existing six to eight hours. However, the plan was not approved.
The cabinet was told that several power plants were either closed or operating below capacity due to shortage of fuel. According to the power ministry, running electricity load was 16,887 megawatts compared to total power generation of 10,764MW on Tuesday, showing a shortfall of 6,123MW.
Of the total shortfall, the country was losing 3,008MW due to fuel shortage as power generation stood at 10,764MW against total system availability of 13,772MW. Thermal power plants were generating 1,444MW against capacity of 2,200MW whereas independent power producers (IPPs) were producing 6,051MW against capacity of 8,303MW. The power ministry said four units of generation companies and three IPPs – Liberty Power, Saba Power and Rousch Power – had been shut down because of fuel shortage.
According to a senior official of the Ministry of Water and Power, the prime minister has issued directives to take up these issues in the energy committee meeting and finalise recommendations to be tabled before the cabinet again.
The power ministry said commercial consumers were facing six hours of outages, power looms four to six hours of outages, ghee and oil mills and other industrial consumers six hours and steel furnace and agricultural tube wells 12 hours.
Farmers also feel the pinch of load-shedding as they cannot run tube wells to extract water needed for cotton and other important crops.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 24th, 2012.