Long hot summer: Asif banishes illusions about load-shedding end

Minister for water and power labels government the biggest electricity defaulter.


Zafar Bhutta May 03, 2014
Khawaja Asif. PHOTO: REUTERS/FILE

ISLAMABAD:


In a rare public admission, Water and Power Minister Khawaja Asif on Friday labelled the federal government as one of the country’s biggest electricity defaulters.


The minister also warned consumers against frequent and prolonged power outages during the summer season.

“The federal government is one of the biggest defaulters… and power distribution companies (Discos) are making efforts to recover unpaid bills by June 30, 2014,” Asif said.

Alluding to the hardship that citizens are likely to face in the next couple of months, Asif said that the people will just have to tolerate load-shedding.

The minister said that he did not want to give any false hope to the masses that load-shedding would end immediately.

Issuing a stern warning to defaulters, he said that whoever does not pay their electricity bills will not get power supply -- whether it’s on a federal level, provincial level or an individual level.

In a move aimed at tightening the noose around defaulters earlier this week, the Islamabad Electric Supply Company (IESCO) had cut off power supplies to several key buildings in the capital over unpaid bills amounting to millions of rupees.

The minister added that PML-N led administration has sought help from the provincial governments to conserve energy and closure of shops at 8pm will improve the supply situation in the country.

Outlining the plan for Ramazan, Asif said the government will ensure uninterrupted supply of electricity during Sehri, Iftari and Travih timings. Responding to a question, the minister also said that the circular debt was hovering around Rs 197 billion.

Asif said that Islamabad Electric Supply Company (Iesco) had recovered Rs 3.2 billion during the ongoing campaign against defaulters.  Nevertheless, he acknowledged that the recovery and anti-theft campaigns were not yielding the desired results.

He claimed that electricity shortfall stood at 3,200 MW, however with the rise in temperature the demand had surged resulting in extended load-shedding.

Asif said that 2,200 megawatts (MW) of electricity would be added to the national grid system, adding that Nandipur power project will also start generation during this month.

The dispute with provinces can be settled, he said, if they agree to pay the current outstanding amount.

The minister stated that the performance of some power companies in Punjab was satisfactory while others needed improvement.

“Performance of Hyderabad Electric Supply Company (Hesco) is gradually improving but at the same time Sukahr Electric Power Company (Sepco) is worsening,” he said adding that Qesco  has unpaid  bills amounting to Rs 72billion.

Additionally, Asif said that the situation in Peshawar had also improved as Pesco recovered Rs 1.5 billion from the defaulters.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 3rd, 2014.

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