Load shedding is not the solution
Massive power theft may find a
place in Guinness Book
By AMANULLAH BASHAR
Oct 16 - 22, 2000
Neither the power generation nor its transmission has anything to do
with the current ordeal of a 2-hour loadshedding the people have to suffer everyday.
In fact the scheduled load shedding had to be imposed on the citizens
because of the yawning gap between the number of power units dispatched by the KESC and
the number of units billed. Obviously, the unbilled units consumed through illegal
connections causing losses to the tune of Rs2.5 billion a month hence resulting in piling
up of the financial liabilities of the power company. The power thieves and the corrupt
with in the company are in fact punishing the genuine consumers.
Currently, the total power requirement is around 1800MW, which KESC is
unable to supply in the present scenario of high rate of losses. Under the situation the
KESC is left with two options. One is to bring down the rate of power theft by tracking
down the wilful power thieves to reduce its losses or to curtail the volume of power
production. KESC opted for the last one. The situation calls for creation a culture of
energy conservation in our society. The culture to discourage the excessive use of
electricity for unproductive purposes like illuminations of buildings and shopping plazas
or marriage halls. In general the society seems to have accepted the culture of power
theft. It does not seem to be a social ill any more. The social responsibility of the
citizens demands to get rid of this stigma as early as possible lest we find a top place
in the Guinness's Book of records as 'power thieves'.
To run its generation system, KESC needs Rs40 to Rs50 million every day
to pay for the furnace oil to Pakistan State Oil (PSO). The price of furnace oil had gone
up by 23 per cent in September alone while the overall increase in oil prices is 65-70 per
Beside other factors forcing KESC to resort to load shedding, there
seems to be a feeling or desire to punish the power thieves. People in KESC feel that load
shedding has enabled to save the costly generated power from the hands of wilful thieves.
There is no doubt about it that such a massive power theft estimated
50-60 per cent has brought an ugly stigma both on the reputation of the KESC due to the
corrupt staff and to the consumers as well. It is of course tragic that 50-60 per cent of
the power dispatched by the KESC goes unbilled consequently causing the colossal financial
losses to the tune of Rs2.5 billion to the KESC every month.
Keeping in view the larger national interest and safeguard the image of
conducive investment climate in Pakistan, KESC should not go for the loadshedding as the
solution to the financial problems it is faced with. A scheduled loadshedding programme in
the KESC's franchised area has been introduced for the first time on the basis of
unbearable expenditures on account of fuel oil purchases.
Thanks to the corrupt elements with in its ranks and files, KESC had
never been in a good financial health and had experienced the similar situation in the
past too when it was unable to pay for the oil. The power generation was never suspended
on account of non-availability of fuel supplies. The federal government had always
intervene the situation and the power generation was never allowed to be disrupted.
According to official sources, the public sectors organization both
federal as well as the provincial government owe over Rs2 billion to KESC. Realizing the
grave situation faced by the KESC, the government should come forward either by clearing
the outstanding bills immediately or by directing the PSO to keep on supplies until the
outstanding bills are paid.
It is unfortunate that right from the beginning of this month over 1.3
million consumers are forced to undergo an ordeal of a 2-hour load shedding being resorted
to by the Karachi Electric Supply Corporation (KESC). Since the consumers have been
divided into four zones and the each zone has to go through a 2-hour load shedding in
rotation. Consequently, educational institute and hospitals have to suffer great hardships
due to absence of electricity especially during morning and evening shifts.
After shutting off its 210 MW power generation unit at Bin Qasim, the
KESC has divided the city in four zones and subjected each to 2-hour load shedding daily
on the basis of rotation.
When asked how long the load shedding will last in Karachi, an official
spokesman of the KESC said that serious efforts are being made to overcome the financial
problems. In that connection constant meetings are going on with the government officials
for the recovery of the outstanding bills against various government departments.
KESC is also negotiating for an early release of Rs10 billion from
banking system, probably from Muslim Commercial Bank. The State Bank of Pakistan is
supervising the deal, which hopefully will be finalized in the days to come.
The KESC had also requested the government for a subsidy of Rs4.3
billion to off-load its burden of the formidable oil prices; the request however was not
entertained due to financial constraints faced by the government itself.
The solutions of the problems however lies in switching over to gas,
cutting down power theft heavily and punishing the power thieves severely irrespective to
the social status of the man responsible for power theft.
If the KESC generators had switched over to gas earlier at least 40 per
cent of the resources of KESC would have been saved. The availability of gas however needs
infrastructure and a pipeline network to supply the gas to the consumers. The development
of a supply network is another problem area where huge investment is needed to take
advantage of the natural resources available within the country.
KESC has to meet the city demand of 1800mw in the summer peak against
the installed capacity of 1250MW of 6 units at Bin Qasim. The actual output of the 6 Bin
Qasim Units, however are not more than 700MW. In order to bridge the gap, KESC has to buy
200-250 MW from the two IPPs i.e. Gul Ahmed and Tapal Energy operating under KESC's
licensed area while 500-600 MW have to be imported from WAPDA.
Pakistan State Oil (PSO), the sole supplier of furnace oil, is
supplying oil to KESC on cash basis. In the face of acute financial crunch, KESC had no
option but to switch off one of the 210MW units at Bin Qasim which led to the current load
shedding being carried out by the KESC.
Pakistan produces around 4,825 MW of hydro-electricity amounting to
around 33 per cent of its total installed capacity. In addition a number of small and
medium sized projects are being planned in its NorthWest Frontier Province with a
potential of around 25000 MW of hydroelectricity. Feasibility reports of another 8 power
projects with a capacity of around 3000 MW have been completed and while Bhasha and Ghazi
Brotha projects are in advanced stages.
Unfortunately the developing countries including Pakistan have not paid
their due attention to the development of alternate or renewable energy resources such as
Solar energy, Sind Energy, Bio-mass energy, Tidal wave energy and Microhydel plants. By
and large the per unit cost of these energies still remain much higher than those based on
conventional energy technologies and will probably not be economical unless they could
have the benefit of the economics of scale. The typical advantages of these technologies
lie in their availability to work in isolated locations and their being environment
To encourage the use of solar energy, Pakistan should take advantage
from the experiences of other developing countries. In India, the Indian Renewable Energy
Development Agency (REDA) offers soft loan covering 85 per cent of system's cost to
encourage the use of solar energy. These loans are repayable with interest of 2.5 per cent
over a 10 years period. Siemens solar industries in India have completed a 3-year training
in photovoltaic training programme. This would help producing photovoltaic cells locally
in that county.
No significant wind energy station has been working in this region. The
Tamil Nado government in India has however set up a center for Wind Energy Technology to
undertake RCD, technology upgrading, testing, certification, standardization and training
programme for this technology.
No project is to be set up in this region. The nearest and claimed to
be the first of its kind is being set up in Zhoushan Islands in China and is expected to
start work shortly.
This is the field where Pakistan and other countries of the region have
done considerable work. Pakistan has not only undertaken feasibility studies for not only
setting up such plants but have manufactured a substantial part of equipment.
As against the negligible use of nuclear technology for power
production in this region including Pakistan, the proportion of nuclear power in the
developing countries is on the increase. Even in 1991, 438 nuclear power stations were
operating in 26 countries of the world with the following proportion for the developed
Britain 2 per cent, USA 21 per cent, Japan 21 per cent, Germany 33 per
cent, Bulgaria 36 per cent, Belgium 60 per cent, France 75 per cent of their respective
total power generation capacity.
There is a dire need for preparing a comprehensive plan placing the
power generation at affordable price on the top of the agenda. The plan should identify
possible sources for power generation at a cheaper cost. Speeding development of our gas
resources and construction of gas pipeline from Iran and Central Asian States may also be
given the top position in our energy map.
One of the major causes which resulting power theft on such a massive
scale is the high cost of electricity which on one hand making our products incompetitive
in the export market and beyond the means of general consumers of low income group on the
other hand. Bringing down the high tariff rates is perhaps the most challenging task
before our economic managers.