HYDERABAD - The Federal Minister for Power Khurram Dastgir has informed that Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif is likely to announce relief for the consumers of the distribution companies who live in the flood hit areas.

Addressing a press conference at the office of Hyderabad Electric Supply Company (HESCO) here on Saturday, the minister apprised that the the federal government was discussing the relief which the PM might announce in 10 days. He, however, did not elaborate what form of relief in the shape of concessions or waiver in the electricity bills would be provided.

The minister said the consumers of the distribution companies (DISCOS) utilising 200 or less units would be issued new bills for the outgoing months after amending the Fuel Price Adjustment (FPA) charges. He added that the last date for payment of the electricity bills had been extended for all the consumers to September 6 in view of the flood situation.

According to him, 54 percent consumers of the DISCOS fall in that slab of 200 or less units while an overwhelming majority of the consumers used 300 or less units.

Dastgir pointed out that the flood challenge had not ended as for the last 2 days a new torrent from northern parts of the country had started to move towards Sindh after passing through KPK. “The coming few weeks will be an emergency situation. I have once again told the officers of the DISCOs to be ready for the upcoming challenges and also warned them that no lapse troubling the consumers will be tolerated,” he told.

The minister, however, acknowledged the performance of HESCO and Sukkur Electric Power Company (SEPCO) which despite torrential rains during last 2 months avoided the outages.

He recalled that before the coalition government took the reins, the outages used to immediately follow the few drops of rain. “We are often unsatisfied with performance of the DISCOs. Yet they worked hard to comply with the instructions to provide electricity during rainfall and they mostly succeeded in doing so unlike the past,” he noted.

He informed that 3 grid stations of HESCO including Nawabshah 1, Daur and Jhirk were inundated by flash flood and were shut down due to rain. One of them, Jhirk, started operation on Saturday with low load, he added. “It is very risky to run grids in such a situation and I salute the workers who are taking risk on their lives to ensure continuity of the electric supply,” he said, praising the workforce of the DISCOS.

Dastgir observed that the country went through a year of hot summer season which unusually started early in the month of April as well as the torrential showers. “Once we are done with summer and rain emergency we will take serious efforts to improve performance of DISCOS,” he said replying to a query.

The minister evaded questions with regard to performance of HESCO, the allegations of corruption and inefficiency against the company’s officers. However, he assured that he would hold another press conference over those issues soon. He disclosed that the country was divided in 2 categories of the consumers in terms of the electric feeders with at least 80 percent recovery of the electricity bills and those with less than 80 percent.

He explained that the feeders falling in the first and second categories are mostly exempt from the load shedding while those falling in 3 to 7 categories face the load shedding due to the line losses. “The line losses can be technical or due to dishonesty,” he acknowledged. The minister said the country dealt with a power generation crisis during the summer season in 2022.

‘The coming few weeks will be an emergency situation’

According to him, previous government of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) had wrongly assessed the power requirement at 25,000 to 26,000 megawatt (MW). Whereas, he added, the actual demand crossed 30,000 MW.

“The power consumption had decreased during the peak summer season in the last 2 years due to COVID-19 situation because the commercial activities and industrial production had decreased,” he observed. He said the country’s maximum production capacity was not more than 25,000 MW.

“And above this we use the low efficiency and outmoded plants on the furnace oil which is like burning our blood and that light is so expensive,” he said. “We do not want to operate those plants because their operation resulted in the FPA crisis,” he added.

 

According to him, the energy demand in 2022 varied between 12,000 MW and 30,000 MW from the months of January to June, respectively. “This big difference between the demand during summer and winter has to be addressed economically,” he underscored.

The minister said the coalition government had decided not to establish any new power plant which was run on imported fuel. Rather, he added, 5 indigenous sources of energy including coal, water, solar, wind and nuclear would he harnessed for setting up the

new plants.

 

He expressed hope that the power generation from Tharparkar’s coal powered plants will reach 1,980 MW by the summer season in 2023 while thousands of MW solar energy would also be available by next year. “I was so happy to see the windmills in Thatta today,” he said referring to his visit to Sujawal district, which borders Thatta, with the PM on Saturday.

Replying to a question he said the 18th amendment had allowed the provinces to set up the DISCOS.

 

He revealed that the center was negotiating with the provincial government to take management control of the DISCOS like HESCO and SEPCO in Sindh.

He said the losses of HESCO and SEPCO contributed to the circular debt which was paid by the center. “Because the tariff is equal across country, where losses are higher the burden is put on the consumers of areas where the losses are lower, which is cross subsidy,” he explained.

He said if the ongoing negotiations with the provincial government succeed, the distribution companies would be handed over to the province while the center would only be responsible for the billing. “If these companies go to the provincial governments, a direct

pressure of the consumers will be created on these companies,” he noted.

 

The HESCO’s CEO Noor Ahmed Soomro, PML-N Sindh’s leader Syed Shah Mehmood Shah and former Senator Nehal Hashmi were present on the occasion.