POWER CRISIS - SLEEPLESS SUMMER NIGHTS

MULTI-DIMENSIONAL PROBLEM

SHAMSUL GHANI (shams_ghani@hotmail.com)
Apr 07 - 13, 2008

With the advent of summer, the power crisis throughout the country has assumed horrific proportions. Our lives are so dependent on electricity that prolonged outages literally damage the very fiber of our living. Besides being in chronic short supply, water availability is linked to power supply. The frequent and prolonged breakdowns render the suction pumps and overhead machines inoperative making the lives of housewives miserable. The tanker mafia is there to lessen this misery to a manageable limit albeit at a highly unmanageable cost. The scorching summer heat takes its toll on the body and mind of every individual, be it a student, an ailing elder or a babbling infant. The small scale manufacturers with no stand-bye arrangement for power are hard hit by the frequent breakdown of manufacturing operations making their business an unviable proposition in an already recessionary market. The labor working in such enterprises is kept on tenterhook as the outages make heavy dents on their daily earnings based on job completion. The students in the face of fast approaching examinations are found struggling for a will to keep focus. The overall economic impact of the prevailing power crisis should not be difficult to measure for someone having a little knowledge of arithmetic.

Load shedding during 2007 exceeded 4,000 MW. With the trend set during the first three months of the current year, we are sure to surpass the last year's record with a wide margin. Country's existing supply of 15,100 MWH has failed to respond to the ever growing energy demand pressure. Inefficient generating systems allow the national grid to operate at a maximum capacity of 80 per cent. We will be requiring another 7,700 MW of power during the next 3 to 5 years. The shortfall during 2007 was to the extent of 1,457 MW which is likely to be quadrupled by 2010.

The following figures released by PPIB give a picture of the years to come:

YEAR

DEMAND (MWH)

SUPPLY (MWH)

SURPLUS / (DEFICIT)

2003

13,071

14,336

1,265

2004

13,831

15,046

1,215

2005

14,642

15,082

440

2006

15,483

15,072

(411)

2007

16,548

15,091

(1,457)

2008

17,689

15,055

(2,634)

2009

19,080

15,055

(4,025)

2010

20,584

15,055

(5,529)

We had a surplus till 2005 but the absence of a proper advance planning proved our undoing. The late rearguard action energy projects are expected to go into production in a reasonably distant future. The newly proposed 13 nuclear plants to generate 8,800 MW of nuclear energy will be operative by 2020. WAPDA is bracing up to start work at Kurram Tungi, Gomal Zam and Munda Dams. If we were not able to launch Kala Bagh Dam project, we should have followed the example of China by undertaking smaller dam projects at the right time. Anyway, it is better late than never. KESC has also undertaken to add 780 MW generation capacity to its existing capacity of 1738 MW by the end of 2010. The Thar Coal 1,000 MW project is awaiting agreement on tariff which is being debated in the usual uncompromising style. The absence of a proper feasibility is also causing delay to the project. It has now been decided to separate mining and power generation activities to make the project a viable and attractive option for the investors. Let us see how long it takes to make the Thar project really operative. Our faulty transmission system is our Achilles' heel as the resultant outages are a heavy burden on our meager energy resources. The parasitic influence of pilferage is also there to take a heavy toll. The benefits of all projects-in-pipeline will take quite some time to accrue. What we are left with are some more sleepless nights.

KARACHI POWER CRISIS

Due to government's centralized generation and distribution policy, Karachi remains largely dependent on the supply level of power from WAPDA to KESC. Karachi laments a reduced supply from WAPDA that is 300 MW as against the agreed supply of 700 MW but the fact remains that KESC should reduce its dependence on WAPDA which may have its own supply problems due to seasonal fluctuations especially in the hydel section of generation.

Karachi power crisis is the end product of a number of factors which need to be seen and handled in the right perspective. These factors are:

* Karachi has become a sprawling city virtually unable to absorb the mounting population pressure. In view of its individuality as a mega city, a separate independent power policy should be formulated for Karachi allowing it to launch rapid capacity expansion projects with ample funds support from the federation. The city planning also needs to be reviewed to allow for the population influx.

* KESC should be allowed access to long term cheap credit both foreign as well as domestic to enable it to improve its transmission and distribution systems and to go for capacity expansion / addition projects.

* Either KANUPP's existing capacity should be enhanced and full utilization ensured or a new unit for nuclear power generation be added.

* Pilferage factor should be eliminated by offering cheap connections at subsidized rates to below-the poverty-line pilferers and by showing no mercy to the affluent pilferers.

* Policies with monetary and fiscal incentives should be announced to attract private sector investment for setting up coal based and wind power projects in Karachi.

* Country's hydel power generation capacity should be enhanced by undertaking more smaller dam projects to enable WAPDA to pass on surplus mega watts to KESC.

The power tariff structure should be rationalized so as to discourage high consumption on luxuries by the affluent.