The government has mapped out a plan to cut power to the Karachi Electric Supply Company (KESC) for three months beginning December, which means that Karachi is going to face eight-hour power outages daily during the winter season. The move is also being seen as an election strategy to calm the provinces that were turning against Sindh.
Under the power load management plan, 350 megawatts (MW) of power supplied to KESC by the National Transmission and Dispatch Company (NTDC) will be suspended for winter to offset the impact of a decline in hydropower generation.
Sources told The Express Tribune that the plan was formed following directions of President Asif Ali Zardari who said that power supply to the KESC should be cut to calm the provinces, particularly Punjab which is more critical of 650MW supplied by NTDC to Karachi under a legal agreement.
On the contrary, the plan also hopes to achieve easing of the energy crisis in the coming months due to closure of canals from December 20 to January 31, by implementing an equal load-shedding plan across the country. Hydropower generation is expected to decline to 1,500MW from 6,500MW.
Government sees power outages as the biggest hurdle to success in the next elections, sources say.
The power sector has been given top priority in the revised gas allocation policy, according to which gas has been diverted from industrial units to power plants to maximise power generation. It is expected that more gas will be provided to the power sector to enhance generation and to acquire this extra gas, supply will also be suspended to the industrial sector for three months.
Sources said that power suspension may be continued till March, 2013 and the government had succeeded in getting an approval from the Council of Common Interests (CCI) to move ahead with the plan.
“It is not legally permissible for the NTDC to cut power permanently following the power purchase agreement, valid till 2015, signed with KESC. The move could result in a legal battle,” KESC said.
Karachi’s power supplier has been asked to boost capacity by operating inefficient power plants to bridge the gap after the suspensions takes place.
In a meeting on Wednesday with the power ministry, National Electric Power Regulatory Authority said that only those idle power plants with better efficiency rate should be operated to boost power generation. However, sources said that Minister of Water and Power Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar said that the CCI had made its decision; therefore it will be implemented at any cost.
Other members included chief secretary of Sindh, managing director of KESC, Nepra and representatives of finance and petroleum representatives.
Managing director of the KESC accused Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC) – Karachi’s gas supplier – for not providing sufficient gas to operate the power plants. However, official of the petroleum ministry said that KESC should sign a Gas Supply Agreement (GSA) to get uninterrupted supply.
The meeting decided to set up a committee under secretary water and power to work out modalities for utilisation of idle capacity generation of KESC. The committee will submit recommendations within four weeks.
Mukhtar, in his opening remarks, said that the best possible way will be found to implement CCI’s decision. He said that 350MW will be added to the national grid and will be distributed equitably. He expressed that energy crisis will be controlled soon as number of measures were being taken to reduce power outages.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 23rd, 2012.