Electricity crisis worsens in Pakistan

Khaleeq Kiani in Islamabad/Dawn
Asia News Network

Islamabad (Dawn/ANN) - With hydroelectric generation at an alarmingly low level because of serious water shortage in Pakistan, the electricity shortfall increased on Sunday to 5,500MW, about 40 per cent of the estimated peak demand of 13,500MW, resulting in an average loadshedding of 11 hours across the country.

Loadshedding of up to 16 hours was reported in rural areas to keep the duration of power breakdowns limited to 6-8 hours in major cities, informed sources said.

Sources said the total power generation at peak hours stood at about 8,100MW on Sunday, causing a demand-supply gap of about 5,400MW.

The power generation was also affected by technical faults in two independent power plants (IPPs), closure of another four IPPs owing to serious gas shortfalls and non-utilisation of about 6,000MW of hydroelectric capacity, according to a spokesman for the ministry of water and power.

On the other hand, water shortage for the forthcoming Kharif season was estimated at over 50 per cent during the month of April when farmers have to sow summer crops as water storage in two major reservoirs remained at the dead level owing to low temperatures in Skardu and other catchment areas.

The technical committee of the Indus River System Authority (Irsa) which will meet on Monday is expected to update its estimates.

Informed sources said there were also indications that water shortage might also go up to 70 per cent in April as river flows had not increased over the past two weeks as earlier projected.

A power ministry spokesman said that two thermal power plants - AES and Hubco - which had gone out of order on Saturday due to technical faults could not be repaired, resulting in an additional capacity loss of 700MW.

In addition, two IPPs - Engro and Pakgen - were currently on scheduled maintenance and will be back in system by end of this week.

Informed sources said that the ministry of water and power was coordinating with petroleum minister Dr Asim Hussain who is on a visit abroad for discussion of about 300 million cubic feet of gas per day from industrial and fertiliser sectors to power generation so that four IPPs with a capacity of about 1500MW currently lying idle could go into production.

Sapphire, Saif, Orient and Halmore power producers were currently available for power generation but were too expensive to be run on diesel as an alternate fuel while gas was not available for them. As a result, about 840MW of capacity remains unproductive.

An official said that lack of operational responsibilities was also creating problems in management of smooth power supplies.

A power ministry official said that Water and Power Minister Syed Naveed Qamar was closely monitoring the situation and had directed departments concerned to take measure to shorten the gap by using all resources to generate maximum quantum of electricity. Efforts are also being made to get gas to run power plants of 1500MW.

The spokesman said that due to drastic decrease in water levels in the dams on account of enormously low inflows, hydroelectric generation had decreased to 600 to 700MW on an average. This shortfall in hydropower generation has widened the gap in supply and demand of power, leading to increase in loadshedding.