Growing gap: Not only has demand been growing but the country’s capacity to produce electricity has reduced over the yearsJuly 20, 2012 by From the Newspaper
The gap between the demand for electricity and the supply appears to be rising as rapidly as inflation in this country.
The average shortfall in the country is around 6,000 megawatts, which surged to around 8,000 megawatt in the second week of June. The main reason for the growing electricity shortfall is not just the increase in demand but also the declining capacity to produce electricity.
But this shortage did not simply appear overnight. Pakistan has been ‘leading to this since 1987 because of its inconsistent policies.
In 1987 a one page notification barred Wapda from entering the thermal generation sector. But if those behind this notification thought that this ban on Wapda would encourage private investments in thermal production, they were sadly mistaken.
Over years, the hydel production has also not seen much improvement.
According to the latest statistics provided by the National Transmission and Distribution Centre (NTDC), Pakistan is producing 4,625 MW from hydel generation, which is flexible as it is based on water discharges from Tarbela and Mangla dams.
The decreased water supply at times results in lower hydel power production.
But more that the dams, it is the state of affairs in the thermal sector that drives home the seriousness of the reduced capacity.
The state owned thermal generation units (Gencos) are making a mere 1,475 MW, and their capacity to produce electricity is regularly falling. With an original capacity of 4,850 MW, they now only produce 3,580 MW as many plants have been decommissioned and the capacity of some has deteriorated due to lack of proper maintenance.
“Poor maintenance has resulted in plants that consume more fuel and produce less electricity,” said an official of the ministry of water and power.
While, the government allows the IPPs to charge 45 paisa per unit as O&M charges, Gencos are allowed to charge only 8 paisa per unit.
“How can the plants be maintained on such a measly amount?” he asked.
The Independent Power Producers (IPP) with a dependable capacity of around 6600 MW, are currently generating around 6,109 MW.
They can produce more but don’t because they don’t have sufficient fuel.
The IPPs were launched in 1994-95 and were seen as a major achievement of the then PPP government. However, the PMLN government that followed alleged that the IPPs had come about through massive corruption. As a result, the plants’ owners were persecuted and hounded to reduce their tariff.
The country has never recovered from that shock – serious investors have been reluctant to enter the power generation sector in Pakistan since then.
“Twelve more IPPs have been inducted under the 2002 power policy – but all of them have a capacity of less than 550 mw. No major power plant was established in the country after the first PPP government,” said an official of the ministry of water and power.
Even the second effort by the incumbent PPP government to meet the energy shortfall on an emergency basis by inviting the Rental Power Plants (RPPs) after it came into power in 2008 failed due to a number of reasons.
As a result, the generation capacity continues to decline with every passing year. The total dependable generation capacity, which in 2008 was around 16,000 MW, has dropped to 14,402 MW this year.
With the current electricity demand hovering around 18,550 MW, the shortfall is over 4,000 megawatts – this will continue even if all the capacity available in country is utilized.