HOW WILL ELECTRICITY LOAD SHEDDING BE OVERCOME BY DECEMBER 2009?

TARIQ AHMED SAEEDI (tariqsaeedi@hotmail.com)
May 25 - 31, 2009

Despite that ministry of water and power has not backtracked its claim to overcome electricity load shedding nationwide by December 2009, the capacity of existing power generation plants and no or slight addition of electricity to the national grid increase the unlikelihood of materialization of this claim, at least in such a short span of time. Last year, Raja Pervez Ashraf, Minster for Water and Power told Senate Standing Committee on Water and Power that by maximizing generation from existing power plants and increasing supply from independent power producers and hiring rental power plants, government would be able to end electricity load shedding by December 2009.

While there are reports of government taking services of rental power plants to augment electricity supply, nothing in concrete has taken place. Meeting the energy shortfall certainly requires substantial addition of power to the national grid. Overcoming loads shedding can not just be a matter of increasing generation capacity for while load shedding occurs mainly due to significant energy shortfall, supply constraints are also a major reason of this. Therefore, under the circumstances when technical faults of supply network are not completely removed and required rejuvenation of transmission and distribution networks is not in sight, it is perhaps impossible to prevent technical causes of electricity load shedding in a short time.

Shortfall is the major cause of load shedding, but in this regard also there has been made no considerable effort to meet meritoriously 'a tall claim'. Indeed, the intensity of electricity short fall can be calmed through adopting immediate measures such as commissioning rental power plants or persuasion of IPPs to increase capacity utilization. However, works on hydro power projects, coal and alternative resources should be expedited to meet the burgeoning energy needs in the country.

Central Development Working Party approved Thar Coal Project that in initial phase was to produce 1,000 MW through coal-ignited power plants, however, due to conflict over the management control of the authority responsible for managing Thar coalmine reserves, the project has not gotten off the ground. The impression created generally about the delayed start of the project is that there is a tug of war between Sindh province and federal government about the formula of sharing wealth embedded in abundance in the province. This is common instance of province-federal disagreement as on some other issues also consensus on wealth sharing has been difficult to develop.

Be it national finance commission award, Kalabagh dam, etc., even if central becomes able to win over consent of provinces, divergence of views of federating units put a stymie in the takeoff of power project. The toll of this is always high. Many hydro power projects have been victims of time-consuming process of consensus creation. Kalabagh dam and Akhori dam are two such hydro power projects works on which have been delayed because of objections over after-effects of their constructions. In two, Kalabagh dam has become a more controversial issue among the four provinces so much so that federal government seems still to be indecisive of its fate.

One common objection raised in the provinces about construction of all proposed mega dams descends from the doubt that construction of dams will intervene in water flows in province. Since there seems to be ineffectiveness on the part of application water sharing laws, the objection has not rightly been addressed. Distrust, built up over years of subjugation of provincial rights because of ulterior motives, has never been phased out and in spite of constitutional guarantees given to the provinces under direct impact of such mega constructions the provinces are paranoid of delivery of justice. The implications of construction of dams on fresh water flows in the provinces have come under discussion many times, however reservations about them have not as widely discussed.

Several other objections sometimes become so widespread that it singes provincial harmony maintained in other relationships. Proponents of non-contiguous provincial harmony, in which one discord is not harmful to the existence of other bond, find traces of wilful ignorance of addressing genuine concerns of the provinces, saying building consensus on national interest issues is not as difficult as it is mischievously propagated over the years. Had the similar propaganda campaign that is mechanized to highlight differences of opinions among provinces been activated to publicise 'good relation', conflict resolution would have been much easier a long ago, according to a school of thought. Like brushing dusts under the carpet, projects are labelled non-functional easily to pass them on for further dialogue or conditioned with consensus. But, that dialogue continues for years on tables set out of parliaments to no avail. The phenomenon of consensus building is strikingly similar in halting almost all proposed dam projects. Coming for the approval of Planning Commission, Akhori dam met the same fate. The commission disallowed the project until provincial consensus is created. The point of concern is that why consensus birth is taking painstakingly long time. In a condition when hydro power generation has become all important to overcome energy crisis, delays will be no less than cost pulling factor. All energy projects should be materialized on war footing.