No power to the people


Following an increase in power shortfall and consumption of electricity because of high temperatures, coupled with an acute fuel shortage in Pakistan, load shedding shot up across the country on Tuesday with prolonged, unscheduled outages reported in many cities.
Federal Petroleum Minister Dr Asim Hussain expressed dissatisfaction with the performance of the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (OGRA) in the ongoing petrol crisis as apprehensions reached an all time high in the country with the already depleted fuel reserves dwindling further. Dr Hussain said that the government had expedited petrol imports and the acute shortage of petrol would be over in the next five days.
Addressing a news conference, he said if OGRA had ensured that the licence condition of storing 20 days of petrol was met by the oil marketing companies, the crisis would have been dealt with much easier. He said that the licences of five small oil marketing companies Byco, Admore, Hascol, OTCL and Askar had been provisionally revoked, but OGRA could give them six months to accumulate the required storage. He said the state-owned Pakistan State Oil (PSO) would import 200,000 tonnes of petrol in the current month and a consignment of 35,000 tonnes had already arrived, with another 50,000 tonnes on the way.
He said a further three consignments of 35,000 tonnes would reach Pakistan between June 18 and June 28. Meanwhile, power outages of six to nine hours were reported during the night as the shortfall neared 4,000 megawatts. In many areas, power went out for an hour after every two hours. According to the Pakistan Electric Power Company (PEPCO), power generation remained at 13,821MW while demand touched 17,771MW, with an overall shortfall of 3,950MW.
Hydroelectric power generation stood at 5,352MW and thermal at 1,801MW, while independent power producers (IPPs) provided 6,569MW. PEPCO also increased the power supply to Karachi Electric Supply Company (KESC). Load shedding in urban areas was limited to six hours, but rural residents suffered through eight or nine hours without power. Several villages in Punjab reportedly went 12 to 14 hours without power, and water shortage followed in many areas.
Lahore Electric Supply Company (LESCO) sources said unscheduled load shedding had been carried out in the city for the last two days. They said LESCO could not control or stop the unscheduled load shedding as it was carried out by the National Control Centre (NCC). Businessmen said their sales had gone down while the cost of running their business had gone up because of load shedding.
“I have to spend extra on petrol to run generators,” said Ghulam Hussain, a small businessman. Several cities including Gujranwala, Faisalabad, Sahiwal, Multan, Sialkot and Rawalpindi suffered from unscheduled load shedding as the temperature climbed to more than 40 degrees Celsius. Hyderabad, Sukkur and many areas in inner Sindh went without power for 16 hours.
In Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, eight hours of load shedding was recorded in urban areas and 20 hours of load shedding in rural areas. PEPCO Director General Ejaz Rafique Qureshi said, meanwhile, that the government would soon overcome load shedding in the country because 572MW would be added to the national grid in the near future, a private TV channel reported. Besides that, he said, four major projects would be completed soon that would provide 2000MW of power to the system.
A PEPCO spokesman said a shortage of furnace oil was mainly responsible for the current shortfall. Technical problems at the Chashma and Guddu plants were causing an additional 800MW dip in production, he added.