ISLAMABAD: Irked by the prolonged power outages that have put the government in an embarrassing position, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has directed the Ministry of Water and Power to fix responsibility for presenting misleading figures regarding electricity demand and supply during the current summer.
Ministry of Water and Power secretary Younis Dagha and additional secretary Omar Rasol have already been removed from the ministry in the wake of the prevailing power shortfall that has plagued the country since beginning of hot season.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has also directed the Ministry of Water and Development to take immediate measures for resolution of tariff issues and to ensure minimum load-shedding during upcoming Ramazan.
Sharif issued these instructions while chairing a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Energy (CCE) – the third in the ongoing month – in what came as his first media appearance since the announcement of Panamagate verdict by the Supreme Court on Thursday last week.
The development bears significance in the context of the existing political scenario in which the power shortfall poses serious challenges for government when seen in conjunction with the current political turmoil with opposition parties demanding his resignation in view of the SC’s verdict.
A source privy to the meeting told The Express Tribune that the premier sounded concern during the meet-up that prolonged power outages were fuelling anti-government sentiment which could allow opposition parties to cash in on the situation.
The PM, the source said, was briefed by the officials of Ministry of Water and Power that power outages had been ‘reduced remarkably’ in the last few days. However, a visibly concerned Sharif did not seem satisfied with this explanation, asking the authorities to ‘do more’ to reduce the power outages.
During the CCE meeting held on April 18, government officials had made a rare yet embarrassing confession that they failed to curb power outages ahead of the summer season, which caused unprecedented load-shedding in the country a few days ago.
During the April 18 moot that officials misinformed the PM that the power shortfall had exceeded only 2,500MW while authentic estimates suggested then that power shortfall exceeded 7,200MW as power generation’s demand stood at 19,700MW while the supply was 12,500MW.
An official statement issued after the meeting said the secretary briefed the meeting on current load management plan, implementation status of planned and ongoing energy projects and enhancement of transmission system.
He said during the present government, a total of 9,625MW in 132 kilovolt and 2,004 MW in 11 kilovolt systems capacity enhancement had been achieved in the transmission system.
“[This] is unprecedented and is essential keeping in view new power generation which is scheduled to come into national grid and allocated to distribution companies in the next nine months,” he said.
Water and Power Development Authority Chairman Muzammil Hussain briefed the meeting on the progress of hydel power projects including Dasu, Diamer Bhasha and Mohmand Dam.
The statement said the PM directed the Ministry of Water and Development to take immediate measures for minimum load-shedding during the holy month of Ramazan.
He also directed to immediately resolve ‘upfront tariff’ issues with the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra) for different kinds of sources including LNG, solar, coal, furnace oil, diesel and gas. Sharif further directed that line departments should work out immediate solutions for administrative and legal issues faced in implementation of energy projects on priority.
The National Transmission & Dispatch Company was directed to pick up pace of work on high voltage direct current transmission lines and other smaller transmission lines projects. Sharif also directed to carry out comparative study about efficiency of various power sources, for presentation in the next meeting.
“Government is working on multiple options of power generation so that consumers are provided with uninterrupted power supply. For this purpose the government has focused on adding base load thermal power projects which shall ensure availability of power all through the year even during lean periods of hydro power generation in 2018 and onwards,” Sharif said.