Power system may collapse soon, Senate committee told
ISLAMABAD: It was officially stated in the Senate’s Standing Committee on Water and Power on Tuesday that a military control of the power sector in the early 90s had failed and that the power transmission system was going to collapse in four years.
“That (military) operation was not a success, I can openly state,” Tahir Basharat Cheema, former managing director of the Pakistan Electric Power Company (Pepco) and now chief of the ministry of power’s energy management cell, said at a meeting of the committee presided over by its chairman Zahid Khan of the Awami National Party.
He was responding to a question asked by the chairman during a review of facility of free electricity supply to 192,582 present and former employees of Wapda and distribution, generation and transmission companies.
The committee ordered monetisation of power supply by paying cash, instead of electricity units, to every employee to avoid its misuse.
The issue came up when some parliamentarians alleged that ‘mini-feeders’ were being operated by even low-level employees who sublet electricity supplied to their houses because they themselves looked after their meters. One member of the committee said some employees were even running tandoors (ovens) on free electricity that they received.
The committee also directed power companies to disconnect the supply to the chief minister of a province if its government failed to clear
electricity dues, instead of disconnecting power supply to hospitals, water boards and other public utilities that caused suffering to the common people.
Mr Cheema said two generals, 13 brigadiers and about 42,000 troops had taken part in the operation in power companies. The military control continued for 5 years. He said the two generals also wanted free electricity like all employees of Wapda and power companies, but their demand was turned down because the facility was only for employees of Wapda up to its chairman.He said the Wapda chairmen and members were entitled to 1,300 units of free electricity per month provided they completed their tenure, unlike those who served there for one or two years. Asked if the military operation succeeded in reducing losses, Mr Cheema replied in the negative.
He said the systems losses of Wapda stood at 24 per cent in 1998-99 before the military takeover and exceeded 27 per cent in 2002 and had now come down to 19.5 per cent.
Mr Cheema said the energy loss reduction programme was an ongoing process carried out with the assistance of the Asian Development Bank, World Bank and Japan International Cooperation Assistance, besides the resources of the distribution companies. But it is a gigantic task and does not attract the required investment.
He said the committee should recommend to the government and the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra) to allow funds through the public sector development programme and tariff.
Tariq Sadozai, the newly-appointed chief executive officer of the Peshawar Electric Supply Company, informed the committee that grid systems and transformers across the country were overloaded to the extent of 50 per cent and as a result the problem of loadshedding was going to extrapolate in four years.
“With the pace of investment that the power sector is attracting I can assure you the system will not improve in 15 years and instead collapse in four years,” he said.
Mr Cheema agreed and said that the same situation existed in the Lahore Electric Supply Company, one of the most efficient companies, where three best feeders could not sustain full energy supply at the time of Sehr and Iftar and went out of order recently.The committee was informed that 137,999 current and 54,583 retired employees or their widows were entitled to between 100 and 1,300 units of free electricity per month at a cost of Rs3 billion, accounting for 0.4 per cent of the power sector’s total monthly bill.
The water and power secretary told the committee that about Rs30 billion was outstanding against disconnected premises or consumers but most of them were still getting electricity. Surprisingly, Rs23 billion are owed by such connections in Peshawar. Moreover, about Rs180 billion was outstanding against private consumers.
Pesco’s Tariq Sadozai said over 300,000 consumers, who did not pay their bills and their supply was disconnected, were still receiving electricity.