Generating even less then the half of the total power requirement of the city

June 30  - July 6, 2003

The Karachi Electric Supply Corporation (KESC), with its capped as well as limited power generating resources coupled with poor Transmission and Distribution network is simply unable to cater to the power needs of the industrial city of Karachi with 14 million plus population.

Despite bearing the exorbitant price of electricity, the consumers were compelled to experience frequent power breakdowns, power fluctuation and load shedding which has become a common feature of the summer.

In some cases day or night long power breakdowns led people to demonstrate to lodge their protest against KESC in different localities of the city. Consequently, the interrupted power supply adds to the miseries of the consumers in the hot and humid summer because of production losses on the industrial side while the domestic consumers suffer from acute water shortage problems.

All these problems pointed out not raise an accusing finger against KESC management but to highlight the factor which, are leading to these problems. In fact, KESC is generating even less then the half of the total power requirement of the city from its almost 30 years old power generating system. KESC has to meet the rest of the requirement estimated around 1800 MW in the peak summer by pooling the electricity in bits and pieces from different resources. These sources from where the KESC is collecting electricity to overcome the power shortage include Pakistan Steel 50 MW, KANNUP 55 MW, Gul Ahmed and Tapal Energy 125MW each and some 400MW from WAPDA subject to availability of the surplus supply with WAPDA. This is highly vulnerable situation to meet the power supply demand of Pakistan's largest industrial and commercial city.

In order to find a permanent solution of the power shortage problem there was a move to establish a direct link between KESC and HUBCO.

HUBCO, a private power producing company, is currently operating under the licence of WAPDA and supply power directly to WAPDA. KESC authorities are of the view that if a direct transmission line established between KESC and HUBCO, the power related problems like breakdowns, load shedding and fluctuation would be resolved to a great extent. However, the project was pending due to short of funds.

Another major problem with KESC was its outlived distribution system and unwise transmission system which also results in technical losses of the power. Amazingly, the entire power generation units of the KESC are located in the East of Karachi at Bin Qasim and Korangi area. As a result of this concentration of power generation units at one point, the electricity has to travel all the way from Bin Qasim to the West of the city. Experts were of the opinion that instead of concentrating the generating units at one point, these should have been located at least on both ends of the city. Earlier there were plan to set up a 400MW at West Wharf but the project was shelved for unknown reasons.

As far as the transmission system of the KESC was concerned, it has 52 grid stations and 102 power transformers. Out of 102 transformers, at least 76 get overloaded in summer and become prone to tripping. In order to avoid tripping of the transformers, KESC has to switch off power supply in different areas in rotation. It may be mentioned that a large number of transformers have already come to their age and cross the limit of 30 years. In order to upgrade these worn out transformers and improvement in overall transmission and distribution network, the KESC had asked the government for a financial support estimated Rs13 billion. However, during the last one year, the KESC has gone only one installment of Rs1 billion so far.

Besides poor power situation, one of the major issues that are perturbing the minds of the people of all walks of life was the unbearable electricity rates in Pakistan. Experts feel that it is the government levy which is responsible for increasing electricity charges in Pakistan. Instead of assigning the role of tax collecting agencies, the utility organizations are made service-oriented organizations. This point of view is substantiated with the fact that WAPDA collected around Rs27 billion under sales tax and other levies during previous financial year. The policy makers should have to give a second thought on the role of the utility services which play a pivotal role in attracting industrial investment both within the country and from abroad.

In order to improve the power supply situation, the government has allocated Rs53 billion for two power generating companies i.e. WAPDA and KESC to keep the cost of electricity under control. Justifying the heavy financial support to these power companies, it is said that without this financial support the electricity tariffs would have called for much larger increases. Although the high cost of imported fuel is attributed for increasing the cost of electricity in Pakistan. However, the terms power purchase agreements signed by the previous governments were also the real factor for pushing price of electricity in the country.

Pakistan was nearly through with the frontloaded payment due to Independent Power Producers (IPPs), after which there will be substantial cut in electricity tariffs, one should hope for the best.

There is no second opinion about the fact that Karachi is hub of economic activity hence it needs a better infrastructure facilities. Leaving the city on borrowed power supply gives a hopeless impression about the infrastructure facilities in Pakistan.