KE blames federal govt for Karachi outages

Says Centre not providing it required amount of oil and gas

Zafar Bhutta July 10, 2020


The K-Electric (KE) – the private power utility that supplies electricity to Karachi – has held the federal government responsible for prolonged power outages in the country biggest city, claiming that the government is not providing it required quantity of oil and gas.

“Required quantity of oil and gas is not provided to the KE that results in low production of electricity. The federal government also did not allow us to install the projects which were approved in 2016,” said the KE Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Moonis Abdullah Alvi on Friday.

Alvi was speaking at a public hearing conducted by the power regulator – the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra) – to hear complaints of load shedding in Karachi. During the hearing, people from Karachi expressed serious concerns over prolonged outrages during summers.

At the hearing, Nepra hinted at enforcing a uniform tariff during peak and off-peak hours to end load shedding in Karachi.KE chief said it was not possible for them to end load shedding at nighttime and admitted that load shedding ranged on an average between 3 to 3.5 hours daily.

“We never said Karachi is a load shedding free city.”

He said the Pakistan State Oil (PSO) – the state-owned oil marketing company – had asked the KE for a confirmation order of oil supply in May. The PSO told the federal government that it could not meet the KE’s demand for oil and called for lifting a ban on import of furnace oil.

Alvi said the PSO had conveyed that it could not provide oil and rather asked the KE to utilize gas. He said 250 million cubic feet per day (mmcfd) gas is being given against a demand of 280 mmcfd.

“Oil supply is not given and gas supply is not increased,” he said.

He said the KE is producing 2,500 MW of electricity, against a demand of 3,300 MW.

He, however, said oil would arrive at power plants in 24 hours and the electricity production situation would start to improve in Karachi. “Other power plants are also not producing full electricity due to shortage of oil. The government is providing 700MW to 750 MW electricity from the national grid.”

He said the KE is working on projects of transmission costing over $400 million. He said 30 to 40 feeders remain closed due to maintenance purpose. Power demand went up to 3,600 MW last week, he said.

The CEO also blamed the federal government for fault in the transmission system.

Nepra chairman, however, question if the KE is fulfilling its obligations. “It seems as if all departments and institutions are stopping the KE from providing electricity.”

He said he had not seen any work being done on improving transmission system in Karachi after he assumed the charge. He said Nepra could request the federal government to enhance supply from national grid but the KE system is not able to lift that electricity.

He asked who was responsible for this weak transmission system of the KE.

The CEO said the federal government is responsible for it. “The KE is not responsible for the crisis”.

He said they would hold meeting with government officials next week with regard to demand and supply of electricity in 2021. He said the KE is holding discussions to run rental power plants for two to three months.

Nepra Member Rehmatullah Baloch said the KE had fuel before this crisis but the city is facing power outages. What is the reason for that load shedding, he asked.

The KE authorities said Tapal and Gul Power plants – two independent power plants from which the KE buys power – are not operating at their full capacity due to shortage of fuel.

Nepra chairman said schools and factories are closed due to coronavirus disease but the KE is unable to manage the situation despite a shortfall of 300MW to 350MW. He said a decision would be taken after examining facts and details.

He said the KE should have surplus electricity in the current situation. He asked the KE to provide details of production, transmission and distribution of electricity.

Sindh Minister for Energy Imtiaz Ahmed Shaikh also attended the hearing and said fuel supply to the KE should be ensured. He said the provincial and federal governments and the KE should meet to find out solution of the energy crisis in Karachi.

He said the provincial government is ready to extend support to the KE to resolve the issue of load shedding. “Planning should be made keeping in view the future needs of the KE,” he said.

Nepra Member from Sindh Rafique Ahmed Shaikh directed the KE to immediately end load shedding in Karachi. However, KE CEO apologized and said it was not possible due to rising demand of electricity.

“There has been a shortfall despite the fact that supply of electricity to industry is curtailed. There will be no load shedding if demand remains below 2,900 MW,” Alvi added.

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