With electricity shortfall rising to 33 per cent because of forced closure of a number of plants, power sector managers are left with no choice but to violate the prime minister’s directive of restricting loadshedding in urban areas to six hours.
According to sources in the National Transmission and Dispatch Company, power generation stood at 9,000MW against a demand of 13,500MW on Monday.
With around 1,500MW going to the ‘exempted feeders’, the managers had to increase loadshedding hours in urban centres; otherwise rural areas would have literally gone without power. According to the sources, two units of Hubco (600MW) are undergoing scheduled maintenance. Normally, they are allowed routine maintenance during high water months, like July. The company’s third unit of 300MW developed a technical fault, adding to woes of the power sector as it lost 900MW from Hubco alone on Monday. Two units at the Muzaffargarh power plant went off line because of leakage in boiler tube, causing another deficit of 500MW.
AES Pak-Gen, which has been on forced closure for one month, is not expected to return to the system over the next four weeks, causing another shortage of 340MW on a daily basis. The power sector managers have kept Uch-II closed for one month because of fears of national breakdown. The plant had faltered twice, taking the entire system down in the beginning of this year. Uch-I, though available, has no transmission line to evacuate 525MW from the plant. Besides, three plants near Lahore — Japan Power (110MW), Sepcol (120MW) and Saba Power (120MW) — have been closed for the past several months because of financial disputes with the government.
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“With around 2,610MW out of the system, either because of technical faults, untimely permission of maintenance or disputes with the government, and all this happening in low water months, the woes of the power sector are not hard to imagine,” said a former managing director of the Pakistan Electric Power Company (Pepco). The company has so far been maintaining a scheduled six-hour loadshedding in cities on the orders of the prime minister and the entire brunt was transferred to rural areas. As the crisis deepened over the past few days, the power managers started putting industry off line to save city dwellers.
But when the situation got out of control, they were left with no choice but to increase the duration of loadshedding in cities to seven hours officially and unofficially much more. The rural areas are facing over 13 hours of loadshedding. Since there was no mechanism to gauge the forced loadshedding, the managers used to escape the wrath of the Prime Minister Secretariat and balance the system, the ex-Pepco chief said. “One must not forget that it is only the start of summer and only fans are switched on. Wait for a week when the mercury is expected to touch 40 degree Celsius and the situation will start deteriorating,” he warned.