Elusive electricity: NEPRA blasts K-Electric over power outages

Report says company has not improved its supply network

Zafar Bhutta June 30, 2015
More than 1,200 people have died in the past week with experts attributing the deaths to unprecedented weather pattern coupled with prolonged power outages. PHOTO: FILE


With Karachi experiencing its worst blackouts in recent years, the country’s power regulatory body has criticised the K-Electric (KE) for not improving its transmission and distribution networks over the years.

Taking note of the ongoing power crisis in the port city, the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra) had constituted a high-level committee to ascertain the causes of frequent power cuts by K-Electric.

After a fact-finding mission, the team reported that the sole power distributor in Karachi had not made adequate investments in its transmission and distribution systems, seriously affecting service quality, reliability and supply to the consumers.

In a statement issued on Monday, Nepra said that although the power utility was utilising its generation resources optimally, its network could not sustain the injection of 2,500-2,700MW of electricity, resulting in frequent tripping and breakdowns.

The power utility has categorised feeders in low-loss and high-loss areas, keeping in view the recovery of power bills and theft. The utility carries out load-shedding for 7.5 hours at “very high-loss” feeders and for six hours on high-loss feeders between 8am to 6pm every day. This means only two hours of power supply in the day time in the extreme-loss areas. In addition to load shedding, system faults and tripping adds to power cuts, resulting in no electricity in some areas for the entire day.

The Nepra committee, consisting of consultants Masood Ahmad Khan and Javed Pervaiz, senior technical adviser Hussain Zaigham Alvi and standards director Mazhar Ranjha, visited the affected areas in Karachi, met with consumers and held a series of meetings with the KE management.

The panel has submitted its preliminary findings and the final report is being prepared. Further action would be taken in accordance with law as per the final outcome of the report, the Nepra statement said.

K-Electric was privatised in late 2008 after it was bought by Abraaj Capital, a Dubai-based private equity firm. The utility had inherited losses of upwards of 40% owing to theft and poor infrastructure which the management has been able to reduce to 25.3% in the most recent quarter, through its policy of differentiated power outages based on loss levels.

The recent heat wave, however, exposed the inefficient system of the only private electricity provider in Pakistan when temperatures in excess of 40 degrees centigrade crashed the power network, causing hours-long outages in almost all areas of Karachi.

More than 1,200 people have died in the past week with experts attributing the deaths to unprecedented weather pattern coupled with prolonged power outages. The federal government has also told the Supreme Court that the KE had been intentionally and consistently under-utilising its plants and relying on energy from the national grid despite having sufficient capacity. The centre also claimed to have doled out Rs269.5 billion in subsidies to the KE, which has failed to meet the energy demands of the country’s largest city.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 30th, 2015. 


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