On June 17, K-Electric issued a press statement announcing that “there will be no load-shedding during sehri and iftar in the holy month of Ramazan in any part of the city”. The statement’s also implied that there might still be “power outages” that should not be confused with regular “power cuts”. The outages could be caused by “tripping or faults” after which the utility’s “rapid response teams” would take care of the matter. In retrospect, this statement does not even begin to tell the story of the next 30-odd days.
It started off with the heatwave that took its toll on Karachi and was made worse by the power outages that seemed never-ending. At the time, K-Electric had said that the demand for electricity had gone up. The utility fell short of admitting that it had not — for some odd reason — foreseen the demand rising and hence had not made adequate preparations. While the demands by politicians at the time, to nationalise K-Electric were uncalled for, given that the performance of the utility in recent years had been reasonable, this does not mean that it did not have the responsibility to identify weaknesses in its system and rectify them. A massive power outage recently plunged Karachi into darkness causing much public outrage. Prolonged outages occurred over the next couple of days as well, doing nothing to assuage the public’s anger. How much the power utility tests the nerves of the public should be a rhetorical question. K-Electric has managed to get its tariff increased by up to 80 per cent and we can all see who the winner is here. We have always lauded K-Electric’s past performance, but the utility needs to realise that it can’t just rest on its laurels. There is a need for it to upgrade its infrastructure, fix the distribution network, perhaps spend a little less time on social media awareness and get down to actual business, and improve its customer service. It is embarrassing when a company, making billions in profits, has to resort to blaming “humidity” for power outages.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 15th, 2015.
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