ISLAMABAD - A special parliamentary committee was Tuesday informed that Rs180 billion of the circular debt is being recovered from the power consumers in shape electricity surcharge.

On December 2017 the circular debt was Rs514 billion and previous government had borrowed Rs180 billion to finance it which is now being recovered from the electricity consumers in their power tariff, said an official of the Finance Ministry while briefing the Senate Special Committee on Circular Debt .

The Senate Special Committee on Circular Debt that met here on Tuesday with Senator Shibli Faraz in the chair, noted that the government has neither encouraged alternate energy sources nor supported the private sector to initiate such projects.  Senator Shibli Faraz said that the government had deliberately discouraged this sector, as to provide room for the use of costly energy.

While clarifying the government position, Joint Secretary of Power Division Zargham Eshaq said that there is no ban on power generation from alternative sources and anybody can do business in this sector.

Alternative Energy Development Board (AEDB) Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Amjad Awan said that around 1036 MWs electricity based on alternative energy sources is being supplied to the national grid. Solar PV power projects are generating 430MWs and added that the Quaid-e-Azam Solar Power Plant has not been failed, it is also generating electricity.

He further said that for 16 bagasse-based power plants, tariff and generation licences have been obtained which have the capacity of 132.4MWs.

Awan said that regarding power generation from alternate sources, the masses have not been sensitized nor awareness campaign had been launched by the government.

Shibli Faraz said that to control power shortfall and circular debt , it is necessary to convert tube wells to solar system and also do effective monitoring of water table. Briefing the committee, Quetta Electric Supply Company (Qesco) CEO said that 74.14 percent electricity is being consumed by the agriculture consumers in Qesco.

He further said that water table in Qesco jurisdiction has dropped from 300 feet to 850 feet, due to which the agriculture tube wells owners have increased the capacity of their water pumps. There are 327000 agriculture tube wells under Qesco which is also one of the reasons of lowering the water table.

He said that Balochistan government is not paying the Qesco dues. The provincial government has paid only Rs3.4 million out of Rs12.5 million arrears. He further said that the ceiling of agriculture tube well bills is Rs75,000, of which the owner pay Rs10,000 while the remaining amount is being paid by the federal and provincial government with the ratio of 60 percent and 40 percent respectively. The subsidy also adds up to circular debt , he added.

Earlier the farmers were paying 4000 rupees and after its increase to 10,000, mostly farmers are not paying bills. He further said that the four grid stations have been upgraded.

He further said that electricity demand of Balochistan is 1800 MWs while it is being supplied only 1000MWs. For domestic and industrial consumption 230MWs is used, while remaining is being consumed by tube wells.

On the issue of Balochistan tube well, Secretary Zargham said that "We have sent PC-I to the Planning Commission for converting 10,000 agriculture tube wells in Balochistan from grid electricity to solar system," he added.

In 2017-18 the government has paid around Rs118 billion as power subsidy. For the ongoing fiscal it would Rs150 billion was allocated for the subsidy. This subsidy is being provided to agriculture tube wells and to those domestic consumers who consume less than 300 units. For agriculture tube wells in Balochistan, nine billion rupees of subsidy would be provided.

Regarding prolong unscheduled load shedding in Shabqadar, Senator Bahramand Khan Tangi said that still there is 22 hours power outage in his constituency despite 90 percent people are paying their bills. Shabqadar grid station is lying closed, he added.

The meeting was attended by Senator Bahramand Khan Tangi, Senator Dr Sikandar Ali Mandhro and senior officers of the Ministry of Finance, Power Division, Nepra, Qesco, Kapco etc.