As hydroelectric power generation falls dramatically due to canal closure, coupled with cut in gas supplies to power plants, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar advised the nation on Thursday to expect longer load-shedding hours.
“Be ready for load-shedding in coming days and months as hydel generation is going to fall dramatically,” said Dar while addressing a conference on the integrated transit trade management system.
He said the closure of canals for annual cleaning would lead to decrease in hydroelectric power generation.
Hydel generation stood at 37% of the total power generated on Wednesday, according to statistics provided by the Ministry of Water and Power. On December 18, total power generation at peak time was 11,000 megawatts including 4,004MW of hydroelectric power against a total demand for 13,595MW. The shortfall was 2,600MW.
In the first week of December, hydel generation stood at 5,000MW, which is expected to come down to less than 1,000MW from December 26 when canals will be closed by the Indus River System Authority for five weeks.
The reduced generation will cause six to eight hours of load-shedding across the country, according to officials of the Ministry of Water and Power.
Instead of enhancing gas supply to the power plants, the federal government on Tuesday cut 85 million cubic feet per day (mmcfd) of gas supply to the power plants to divert it to industrial units in violation of its own National Power Policy, which gives priority to the power sector over the industrial sector.
This will further reduce power generation by at least 500MW, increasing the duration of outages by another one and half hours.
Dar defended the decision of diverting gas to the industries, arguing that this was necessary to maintain the momentum of economic growth, which picked up in the first quarter of the current fiscal year. The gross domestic product grew 5% in the July-September quarter compared to the corresponding period of previous fiscal year.
Dar said in these difficult times, the nation had to make a choice between comparatively more load-shedding in winter when it was bearable and gain dividends of growth, or shut down the industries and increase unemployment.
The minister said the government was also trying to bring a thermal power plant back on the national grid, which had been shut down due to administrative reasons.
He said the government’s decision to clear Rs503 billion of circular debt not only saved Rs55 billion annually on account of interest charges, but also added 1,700MW to the system.
There was daily load-shedding of 16 to 18 hours in the country during the last months of the previous government due to non-payment of this amount, the finance minister stated. The government was working to find long-term solutions to the energy problem, he said.
But, according to experts, Pakistan knows its energy problems and also has solutions. “Pakistan’s problem is weak administrative authority,” said Ilhan Ozturk, Associate Professor of Economics, Cag University Turkey.
Ozturk delivered a lecture on Energy Dependency and Energy Security, arranged by the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics. Ozturk said mismanagement and lack of administrative powers were the main causes of energy crisis in Pakistan.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 20th, 2013.