12-hour power cuts are back

LAHORE: If summer comes, power cuts cannot be far behind. Twelve-hour loadshedding came back to torment the country on Saturday as the mercury hovered around the thirties in southern Punjab and Sindh while plants with a combined capacity of over 3,000MW remained idle for one reason or the other.

Power generation remained restricted to around 8,800MW for the better part of the day and touched 10,000MW during peak hours (from 6pm to 11pm), leaving a gap ranging between 4,000MW and 5,000MW. Planners were left with no option but to enforce 10-12 hour load management in major cities.

According to an official of the National Transmission and Dispatch Company (NTDC), the demand during the day was around 13,000MW. The peak hours added 1,500MW during the evening. The generation, however, was much lower for a variety of reasons.

An instant increase in demand came because of the rising temperatures in Sindh and southern Punjab. Karachi recorded a maximum temperature of 35 degrees Celsius, Hyderabad 32 degrees and Larkana 29. Even Bahawalpur and D.G. Khan went close to 30 degrees Celsius. People in these areas have switched their fans on and, in some cases, even air conditioners.

It has added to the demand around 3,000MW instantly. On the other hand, plants of over 2,000MW though available but remained idle because they are neither getting oil nor gas for the last many days, even weeks in some cases. Even available ones were not being run while plants of around 1,000MW were on routine maintenance.

“This gap could have widen grossly had provinces not drawing water heavily to save their standing crops,” says an official of the NTDC. They are getting around 80,000 cusecs, which are released during the peak hours to generate additional electricity.

The power planners fear the worst to come in the coming days, as both dams were depleting fast and may hit the dead level in a week’s time, leaving the entire generation to a paltry run-of-the-river flows and widen the gap between demand and supply.

“It is just the beginning of a very bad and long summer,” says an official of Pakistan Electric Power Company (Pepco).

The company, along with all generation and distribution arms, is preparing for the worst summer for a number of reasons — declining recoveries, mismanagement at the top level, receding writ of the state and un-dependable generation, he said, adding: “Of all, the mismanagement is the top cause. None of the companies operating in the sector has professional management.

All of them are being run by ad hoc heads who are more interested in saving their jobs and pleasing bosses than concentrating on their work.

“Ever since the present government took over, its campaign against theft has been a stupendous failure. The bill recoveries have dropped to 86 per cent.

The tariff issues in AJK and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa still persist. None of the heads of any power company has been appointed.

All these factors are haunting the sector and would continue till government shows commitment to the sector,” he concluded.