Life in Karachi rarely offers its residents breaks in the daily hustle and bustle. Similar is the situation with the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority’s (Nepra) recently announced power tariff reduction by Rs2.60 per unit that has been offered to all consumers except those who purchase their electricity from K-Electric — meaning residents of Karachi as well as households using less than 300 units per month, as per Nepra’s stipulations. The cost adjustment was made for the month of October 2016 because distribution companies charged consumers an excessive amount above the actual cost of fuel. This is an honourable decision by Nepra and too bad that Karachiites will miss out on the relief.
In all fairness, the charge of Rs7.33 from an actual Rs4.74 cost is a significant increase by 55 per cent, so the Central Power Purchasing Agency was right in filing the petition with Nepra. Nepra seems to be working aptly, aiming to keep costs down, or at least reasonable, for consumers, as they continue to face rising costs in various sectors. Exorbitant costs of electricity have long forced many to forego health and comfort, particularly in the summer months when the use of air conditioning becomes necessary with high threat levels of deadly heat exhaustion, for example. Nepra also rejected a request to increase the tariff for Pakistan’s first private high-voltage direct current transmission line project, the $1.57 billion 878-kilometre long Matiari-Lahore transmission line, much to the federal government’s dismay, as well as to the disapproval of the Chinese company working on the project, as part of a priority venture under the CPEC umbrella. However, the country’s heavy reliance on coal-based fuel is not a sustainable model. Considering that Pakistan continues to face annual electricity shortfalls, energies must be focused towards research and development on sustainable fuel sources, also taking into consideration the impending threat of climate change. Although changes are being introduced in the power supply landscape of Pakistan, with private companies and Chinese companies entering the arena, the tiffs between the regulator and the government will need to be patched up for the country to prosper.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 28th, 2016.
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