Heat wave: Electricity demand hits record high on first day of Ramazan

Published: June 20, 2015
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City likely to be in the grip of the heat wave for next three days.

City likely to be in the grip of the heat wave for next three days.

KARACHI: The first day of fasting turned out to be a testing one for the people of Karachi, as temperatures soared to 40 degrees centigrade and the electricity demand hit a record high of 3,100 megawatts.

Being a Friday, most government and even private offices were closed by 12pm and people rushed home. Very little traffic was seen on major roads after the Friday prayers. But the unusual absence of the winds that blow into the city from the sea had apparently pushed residents to switch on every available fan and air conditioner, say officials.

“We are trying to cope with the situation to the best of our ability,” said Usama Qureshi, the spokesperson for K-Electric. “This is the highest power demand we have seen in a long time.”

The power utility is using its tight schedule of alternate suspension to deal with the gap between electricity supply and demand. But areas that were normally exempt from load-shedding also faced breakdowns due to excess consumption, which was causing the system to trip.

Pakistan Meteorological Department’s Karachi region director, S Sarfaraz, said the intensity of the heat wave had increased due to a blockage in the sea breeze flowing into Karachi. “A low air pressure has developed in the North Arabian Sea that has dragged all the air into itself,” he said. “I have never witnessed this happening in the third week of June.”

He insisted, however, that no conclusion about a change in climate patterns should be deduced from this one isolated case. “We would need to study the records and then come up with a proper assessment.” The director added that Karachi may be under the grip of the heat wave for the next three days. The unbearable heat has also taken its toll on people who ventured out for work, said Edhi Foundation’s Anwar Kazmi. “Our ambulances had to tend to a few people in Mehmoodabad and Landhi.”

The water crisis has added to the miseries of the residents of the port city, where many small and big towns are facing acute shortages.

Protests

Meanwhile, scores of people took to the streets to protest the unannounced load-shedding in various areas. In one such incident, residents of Gulistan-e-Jauhar gathered outside the power utility’s office in the area and pelted stones at the building. The protesters also tried to enter the building premises but the security guards opened aerial fire, forcing the protesters to disperse. A large contingent of law enforcers reached the site to control the situation. The protesters claimed that there was a complete electricity breakdown in various parts of Gulistan-e-Jauhar and K-Electric employees were not responding to their complaints.

Several such protests were held in other parts of the city, including Ayesha Manzil, Super Highway, Malir, North Karachi and Nazimabad.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 19th, 2015. 

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Reader Comments (1)

  • S.R.H. Hashmi
    Jun 20, 2015 - 8:38AM

    K-electric tells us that due to weather turning excessively hot, the electricity demand has increased tremendously, resulting in outages even in areas which were exempted from load-shedding. However, in Sector 18 of scheme 33, even before this heat wave, things were not much better and the area was subjected to three spells of load-shedding of two and a half hours each, with odd breakdowns of varying duration thrown in as bonus day and night. And this heat wave has only compounded the misery.

    However, what worries me is that with the passage of time, I had expected some improvement but actually, the situation this year is much worse than last year. And the way the graph is moving, perhaps next year will be worse still. Now, this takes the inconvenience, discomfort and frustration level much higher. And this way, the problem is not likely to be resolved ever.

    And explanations by K-electric are even more annoying. In response to the complaints for extra load-shedding, they say that it is not additional load-shedding. They claim that this is the time period spent on reinstating the system after it trips due to heavy use of illegal Kundas. However, whatever the cause, the consumers are left without electricity and it does no matter to them what technical terms K-electric uses for it.

    And even eliminating the illegal Kunda system is K-electric’s responsibility but instead of doing the actual work, the company thinks its job is done by running fancy advertisements on television. Letting the Kunda system continue despite K-electric having the capability to make the transmission lines kunda-proof is almost criminal negligence on its part for which it choses to punish the regular payers who have the misfortune of living near the Kunda-infested localities.

    In some localities, K-electric has managed to install kunda-proof transmission lines and have replaced Kundas with low-cost meters. What is needed is for the K-electric to do it at a much accelerated pace and not in the lethargic fashion that it has been doing it so far. With meters installed, people will know that they will have to pay according to their electricity usage and this may persuade them to economize, thus reducing the total consumption.

    I know replacing existing transmission lines with the Kunda-proof ones, and installing meters on a mass scale will be a costly affair. However, since this is a matter of public welfare, some bank or perhaps some international aid agency may grant K-electric a loan for this purpose with a long pay-back period and on low interest rates.

    The federal government has plans to eliminate load-shedding by the end of year 2017 by increasing electricity generation sufficiently. However, that will not automatically end K-electric load-shedding as well because the company gets a fixed load from the national grid which may not be increased as much as K-electric would like. Therefore, K-electric also needs to increase its own generating capacity to be able to end load-shedding a least by 2017. Perhaps it could seek a long term loan for this purpose as well.

    And what is most important is that K-electric needs to take remedial measures with a sense of urgency and not in a lethargic manner which has been the norm so far.

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