Federal Minister for Water and Power Khawaja Asif announced on Monday that circular debt has swelled again to Rs300 billion but assured that unannounced load-shedding will lessen in the next few days “with the help of God”.
The government had cleared the Rs480-billion circular debt without conducting an audit after the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government came into power. But circular debt is back due to power theft and losses, and is again crippling the entire energy chain.
Addressing a press conference on Monday, Khawaja Asif said the government had to deal with the accumulation of circular debt for the last three days, which then forced the ministry to begin the load-shedding cycle.
“We have to opt for unannounced power outages to save the system after [we lost] 1,500 MW of power due to some power plants shutting down.”
He said that the 1,500 MW power “disappeared from the system” as two transformers in Lahore defaulted, causing a decline in power generation to 13,000 MW from 15,500 MW whereas the demand hiked from 19,000 to 20,000 MW. The power shortfall swelled to 7,000 MW and there was no other option other than load-shedding.
But the government was providing uninterrupted power supply to industries for the last 10 months, the minister added.
He accepted that honest consumers were paying the price for power theft and said the government would take measures to stop this corruption.
The government has framed short-, medium- and long-term plans to end load-shedding in the country. “We have overcome the situation of unannounced load-shedding now as some power stations are back on. With the help of God, it will improve in next two to three days,” Khawaja Asif said, adding that it was not in the government’s control to remove deficiencies in the system.
“Circular debt has surged Rs280 to Rs300 billion again and the government will not give power to defaulters,” the minister maintained, adding that the government should make immediate recovery of electricity bills.
He said that circular debt would continue if line losses and power theft are not controlled. Sindh was to provide Rs57 billion in power dues, Balochistan Rs106 billion, Punjab Rs12 billion and AJK owes Rs37 billion. Khawaja Asif said AJK was receiving power from the federal government at Rs2.50 per unit, but it was selling it to consumers at Rs11 per unit. Moreover, the Indus River System Authority had refused to ensure water indent resulting in a decline in hydel power generation.
Meanwhile, he clarified that the Nandipur power plant was not shut down. “We have to operate the plant on diesel at a higher cost and therefore, we are operating it for a limited time.”
Published in The Express Tribune, July 15th, 2014.