Islamabad - A Senate Committee on Power was informed on Thursday that Iran has stopped supply 80 megawatts out of the 100MW electricity to Gwadar and other coastal areas of Balochistan.

The Senate Standing Committee on Power that met with Senator Fida Muhammad in the chair was informed that due to heat-wave and load-shedding on their part, Iran had stopped supplying electricity to other countries including the Makran coast. The committee chairman took strict notice of the absence of Caretaker Power Minister Ali Zafar and said that he misled the Senate about the shortfall in the power supply from Iran and attributed it to payment issues. He recommended that the power minister should be summoned at the next meeting.

The senator said that he had talked to the Iranian ambassador and the Chief Executive Officer of Quetta Electric Supply Company (QESCO) and they had confirmed that there was no payment issue. The Iranian ambassador had assured that they would be able to restore 50 percent of reduced supply from 15th to 20th of the current month, he said.

Power ministry’s Joint Secretary Zargham Khan said the requirement of Gwadar was about 70 MW but was suffering along with many other coastal towns. The official said that the areas receiving electricity from Iranian were currently facing more than 20 hours of power outages but hoped that it will reduce to 12 hours in coming days.

He said a Chinese company working in Gwadar had promised to make available about 7.5MW of electricity from its generators but was demanding Rs5 million per day. The supply of 7.5MW would resolve some local problems in Gwadar but the tariff demanded by the Chinese company worked out to about Rs30 per unit which was higher than the price of Iranian electricity. Zargham said that Gwadar was currently getting only 35MW of electricity. Since Gwadar is not connected to the national grid, therefore, cannot be provided the power supply, he said. Senator Molvi Faiz Mohammad deplored that Pakistan had not made its own arrangements for the region and wondered how long “we would be relying on outsiders”.

The Qesco CEO said that a Rs14 billion worth of PC-I for a transmission line project for Gwadar had been submitted to the Executive Committee of the National Executive Council (ECNEC) and was awaiting an approval. He said the Senate committee should use its good office for early the approval so that a long-term solution could be made.

The senators said that Gwadar faced a host of challenges including power supply, water shortage, terrorism and agricultural constraints but the recent power problem had further added to the problems of the people. In some cases, electricity poles and metres had drowned due to floods but consumers were not being given electricity due to huge receivables that were beyond the capacity of the people.

Zargham said that a 220-kilometer line of 132kv and 727km of 230kv were awaiting the ECNEC approval. He told the committee that there was a strong case for inserting a new clause in the power import agreement from Iran to ensure it could compensate from other sources or means in case of the power supply shortfall. He proposed that this should be done immediately before Iran resumed the full supply to Pakistan.

The Hyderabad Electric Supply Company CEO told the committee that his company’s arrears had accumulated to Rs83 billion since it was created in 2010 and the amount was beyond the paying capacity of the consumers. He said that he had requested deployment of Rangers in the interior of Sindh along with some incentives to improve recoveries and said he had filed 1100 applications for registration of FIRs for the power theft.

He said his company’s network was capable of drawing 1125mw from the national grid but because of high losses and low recoveries, it was not availing its full quota. The committee was briefed about the implementation status of the recommendations made in the previous meeting held on July 5.  CEO Lakhra informed the committee that the Lakhra power plant consisted of 3 units each having 50 megawatts.

 Since 2007 to-date, its losses have amounted to Rs12 billion, he said. The committee was briefed that administrative expenditures along with employee-related costs were the reasons for the losses incurred. The committee demanded a complete list of employees and the expenditure incurred on paying salaries and pensions.

The committee stressed that the Lakhra power plant must be upgraded and the tariff must also be discussed with the NEPRA in accordance with the situation. K-Electric (KE) officers informed the committee that 650MW electricity was supplied to KE on the instruction of the Sindh High Court.  The committee was told that the agreement expired in 2015 and the process for the new agreement has been completed. While discussing the promotion criterion of DISCO officers, the standing committee demanded a detailed list of promotions granted in the current year.

MD NESPAK briefed the committee that it was established in 1973 and it was a public institution with a board of directors chaired by the secretary power division. The total number of employees was 5,323. The work of the institution has been divided into 10 divisions and 652 projects have been completed in the last three years.  The institution has earned Rs 6 billion and 150 different projects are running in 37 countries around the world. Currently, the NESPAK has five overseas offices with 400 to 500 employees.

The committee took serious notice of electricity shortfall in different districts of Balochistan and the committee chairman recommended that concrete measures should be taken to resolve the issue at the earliest. While discussing problems faced by industrial units, the standing committee sought details of new electricity connections being provided to Hattar Industrial Estate Senator Mian Muhammad Ateeq complained about low voltage issues at the industrial zone owned by him.

The SEPCO CEO informed the committee that 10 districts came under its range. He said that there were 54 grid stations in rural areas, however, the recovery was a serious issue.  He lamented lack of police support in this regard. The PESCO CEO briefed the committee that in Bannu, 50 percent recovery has not been made, while the recovery status of Malakand Division was 100 percent.  The committee chairman showed displeasure at this and stressed that it was unfair that despite 100 percent recovery no development funds were spent on the area.  He directed the officers of the ministry, DISCOs to chalk out a mechanism to motivate consumers to pay electricity bills. This, he said, could be recovered in installments. The meeting was also attended by Senator Moula Bux Chandio, Senator Aurangzeb Khan, Senator Mushahid Ullah Khan, Senator Muhammad Akram and others.