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Unscheduled loadshedding due to higher than normal temperatures: Khawaja Asif

04 April, 2017

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ISLAMABAD: Water and Power Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif on Monday confirmed a massive electricity shortfall of 5,420 megawatts, but attributed the “unscheduled loadshedding” to higher than normal temperatures.

Speaking at a hurriedly called news conference with outgoing and incoming secretaries, the minister said the circular debt excluding due payments to gas companies stood at Rs385 billion as of March 31, 2017 compared with Rs441bn (all inclusive) debt cleared by his government at the very outset in 2013.

In reply to a question, he refused to speak about payables to the Oil and Gas Development Company (OGDCL) and the two Sui Gas companies .

Mr Asif said that between 4,000MW and 4,500MW of power supply would be available to the system by the end of this month. This would “help meet this additional (demand-supply) gap, but the normal gap of three-four hours will remain there”.

He said it was true that loadshedding in some areas ranged between 10 and 12 hours and this would continue because these were high-loss and low-revenue areas because of theft.

“The government has gone a step further to de-electrify some areas by removing their transformers because of theft,” he added.

When his comments were sought on unconfirmed reports that for the past two years, the government had been charging consumers at rates 27 per cent higher than those approved by the regulator and earning an annual windfall of Rs228bn, Mr Asif said “since the matter is now before the court, we will state our position there”.

In reply to a question, Mr Asif said he would not disclose areas notorious for power theft, adding that power thieves were present in every province, and not just one.

He claimed that the disconnection exercise was already creating the desired impact as those who suffered disconnection were now applying for installation of meters and making payments.

Mr Asif said the current year’s generation of 12,550MW was almost 1,000MW higher than the last year’s, but the demand had also surged to a record 17,970MW. The demand was 15,600MW in April last year — a rise of more than 2,000MW.

An official explained that a gap of 5,420MW between demand and supply meant an average load management of eight-nine hours.

Mr Asif brushed aside speculation that the unscheduled loadshedding was because of non-payments to independent power producers (IPPs), asserting that these plants registered a record 8,000MW on Monday while public sector generation companies produced a record 2,836MW. In addition, hydropower producers contributed 2,100MW as against 2,000MW at this time last year.

The minister said total payables to the IPPs stood at Rs163bn, including Rs56bn payable to Pakistan State Oil (PSO). Another Rs54bn was payable to the IPPs as capacity charges, but after setting aside PSO dues payable by the IPPs, the total outstanding amount against the government stood at Rs161bn.

Of this, Rs69bn was under litigation between the government and the IPPs on account of interest payments, leaving behind a liability of Rs92bn.

Mr Asif claimed that even the Rs92bn was not payable in cash, but power purchase agreements with the IPPs provided credit limits that the IPPs could draw from banks and the government was bound to pay through tariff Kibor plus four per cent interest on these credits.

The minister said the average temperature in Sukkur and Jacobabad stood at 41 degrees Celsius — at least four degrees higher over the reading for end of March-early April last year. Citing another example, he said Peshawar was 10 degrees warmer this year at 33 degrees Celsius.

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