As power crisis deepened, sparking violent protests in Punjab for a fifth day, the government on Wednesday was unable to find a solution after the petroleum ministry refused to give additional gas for power generation.
The cabinet committee on energy could not firm up proposals and will meet again Thursday (today) morning before a scheduled meeting with Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani later in the evening.
Wednesday’s meeting, chaired by the finance minister, had been convened on the premier’s directives to devise a strategy for overcoming the energy shortage in the country, according to an official announcement.
For the last one week, consumers, particularly in the Punjab, are facing 13 to 18 hours of load shedding. The opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz has threatened a long march towards the Presidency.
Sources said the water and power ministry had sought gas supply for four independent power producers (IPPs) but the petroleum ministry refused to provide an additional 152 million cubic feet of gas per day for power generation.
The petroleum ministry said it has already been providing more gas compared to last year and gas supply contracts with these four IPPs were terminated last year, sources said.
The ministry proposed that if the government wanted additional supply for power, it will have to curtail gas to either CNG, or fertiliser sector or the industry.
Authorities are expected to firm up a proposal before meeting with the premier.
An official of the finance ministry said that final cash requirements for ensuring less load shedding would depend upon the availability of gas.
An electricity unit produced by using gas costs Rs5 while furnace oil-based production costs Rs18.60 per unit, he said.
The official said the meeting also discussed various options for sustainability of power sector during April and July – the peak months of energy demand.
Participants also discussed old, unimplemented solutions like recovery of fuel adjustment surcharges through monthly bills, improving billing collection, required amount of subsidies and recovering of arrears.
An official of the water and power ministry said that the minister, Naveed Qamar, did not announce withdrawal of fuel surcharge. He only said that the mechanism of recovery to be determined by the ministry would suit the consumers, the official said.
The National Electric Power Regulatory Authority has notified Rs6.39 per unit fuel adjustment surcharge to be recovered from consumers on account of increase in fuel cost.
An amount of Rs77 billion is outstanding on account of fuel surcharges for the months of October to January.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 29th, 2012.