May 24 - 30, 20

Despite several measures announced by the government including two weekly offs, restricted use of air-conditioners in government offices, closure of business centers and shops at 8.00 pm, in the wake of energy moot held recently in Islamabad, electricity load shedding is still being carried out across the country that is not only causing difficulties for the people but also leaving serious negative effects on country's weakening economic situation.

In cities, load shedding is being carried out for about 7 hours while in rural areas it is observed for over 10 hours. This speaks that power crisis is still one of the issues confronted to the country because small traders have started raising voice against closure of shops at 8.00 pm.

Industrial growth and production have already been badly affected due to persistent power crisis while a good number of labour force has been rendered jobless that is causing manifold social problems in the society.

Economic experts are of the view that power shortfall can be easily reduced by clearing circular debt and restricting the IPPs to work on their full capacity.

On the recommendations of the Energy Summit held recently at Islamabad, the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources consented to make available 183 MMcfd of additional gas in SNGPL and SSGC system for PEPCO. This gas is resulting in additional power generation as per following breakup 240 MW from Guddu, 200 MW from KAPCO and 300 MW from GENCOs, a spokesman of PEPCO told Page.

According to him, KESC is generating additional 300 MW on RFO which earlier was not being utilised because of paucity of gas. About 400-600 MW has also been made available from IPPs. A total of 10 IPPs with a capacity of 2067 MW will be commissioned by December 2010. Similarly, a total of 8 rental power projects with a capacity of 1150 MW will be commissioned by December this year.

The PEPCO spokesman further said the Energy Summit unanimously recommended that the menace of circular debt should not be allowed to recur and timely payments would issue to ensure the financial sustainability of the power sector.

Sources claimed that power distribution companies had huge amount of arrears from provincial governments. The Government of Sindh had arrears amounting to Rs21 billion to HESCO. Government of the Punjab had tube wells subsidy arrears amounting to Rs6.1 billion. The Government of Balochistan had tubewells subsidy arrears amounting to Rs7.4 billion while government departments dues are of Rs2.1 billion. In support of the power sector, the Ministry of Finance was to provide Rs116 billion to bail out the PEPCO and its entities from the financial crunch during the current financial year.

Highlighting the medium and long term measures, PEPCO spokesman said the demand is expected to grow by about 8 per cent resulting in a total demand of nearly 36,000 MW by 2015 and 114,000 MW by 2030 respectively. To meet the above demand maximum dependence will be on indigenous resources of coal and hydro. In the medium term 21,000 MW additional capacities will be inducted out of which 2500 MW will be from hydro and 8,000 MW from coal. Similarly in the long term, 105,000 MW additional capacities will have to be inducted out of which 25,000 MW will be from hydro and 30,000 MW from coal. Renewable and captive will contribute up to 15,000 MW.

Public Sector Energy Development Fund (PSEDF) will have to be established to finance additional generation project, especially based of coal and hydro.

An ambitious action plan to generate power from the sugar/textile captive power will also be drawn up that will help identify the difficulties being faced in this regard.

According to Federal Minister for Privatisation Senator Waqar Ahmed Khan, circular debt has strangulated the oil and energy sector and aggravated the power crisis in the country. "There was an urgent need to take measures to curtail circular debt to improve the financial health of state-owned enterprises OGDCL, PSO, PPL and private sector IPPs," he said, adding the government was planning to float exchangeable and convertible bonds to overcome the problem of circular debt confronting the national economy.

According to PML-N leader Mohammad Pervaiz Malik MNA Pakistan's trade had always been in crisis and the common man was the sufferer of economic problems. About 20 to 50 per cent development funds were wasted due to flawed policies and added that dictatorship had pushed the country to the wall. "We have to get rid of load-shedding, price hike and unemployment to provide relief to people in the country," he said.