ISLAMABAD - At the asking of the Supreme Court, the federal government Friday withdrew the controversial notification to hike power tariff for the domestic and agri consumers.
The attorney general, along with minister and secretary for water and power, appeared before a three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry hearing the suo moto on loadshedding and power tariff hike.
The chief justice asked the attorney general to withdraw the September 30 notification itself because if the court ordered to do so then the government will have to pay the balance. To avoid further embarrassment, the government withdrew the notification and also filed a petition in the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra) for the reconsideration of power tariff.
Attorney General Munir A Malik stated: “The federal government is requesting the regulator (Nepra) for reconsideration of its determination of tariff for DISCOs (distribution companies) and KESC (Karachi Electric Supply Company) for the financial year 2012-2013. The re-determination shall be effected from 1st October, 2013 and will include subsidies as per guidelines issued by the federal government. In the circumstances, the federal government withdraws the current notification dated 30th September, 2013.”
The court was informed that the redetermination of tariff will be on the basis of already determined tariff for power companies. “The petition will be on the determined tariff as all the companies have issued the rates on the bills,” said Chairman Nepra Khawaja Muhammad Naeem.
Khawaja Asif told the court, “The government is cognizant of the facts that the people have given them mandate and have lot of expectation from us, but at the moment it would be difficult to provide electricity on cheap rate. It is only possible if the power plants are run on coal or gas,” he added.
He also said all over the world the power plants are run either on the gas or coal, adding in India 70% and in China 60% power plants are on coal, while in Pakistan generation of electricity through coal is zero. He said as a stopgap arrangement, the government has planned to run power plants on imported coal from next year and then start using our own coal with the passage of time. He further told that by the end of next year the natural gas from Iran would come in the system, while the project of gas import from Turkmenistan was also in pipeline.
Regarding bypassing in tariff determination, the chief justice asked Kh Asif that in the Rental Power Plants (RPP) case “you had said the government itself couldn’t determine tariff. But now when you are in the power then how the government could determine the power tariff”. Justice Jawwad S Khawaja said that the government can’t raise even a single penny without lawful authority. The attorney general contended that the practice has been going on since 1998. The chief justice remarked, “Then close down the regulatory bodies.”
Justice Khawaja questioned why the government was not serious about recovering Rs441 billion from the defaulters, who get the electricity but were not ready to pay for it. He said it was a violation of articles 9, 14 and 24 of the constitution. “It is the opposite of what Robin Hood did as he would take money from rich and distribute it among the poor, but here the government takes out money from the pockets of the poor and gives it to those (affluent) who don’t pay their (bills),” he remarked.
The chief justice said then they would direct the Nepra to drop the concessional rate and produce maximum electricity from gas and hydle sources. Nepra Chairman Muhammad Kh Naeem informed the court that presently the hydle generation stood at 6,900MW and from gas at 4,730MW while Genco, which are also on gas, are producing 1,840MW of electricity.
He said if gas is supplied to power plants, the tariff rates would come down by 25 to 35 per cent.
About line-losses, the chief justice remarked that it is not more than 7% in the world, but in Pakistan, it is as much as 65%. The Nepra chairman informed that line losses of Multan region are 15%, Kesco 38% while they are only 9% in Gujranwala, Lahore and Islamabad zones. To ascertain the outcome of the policy statement/decision made by the government, the bench adjourned the hearing of the case for two weeks.