The power sector is under attack, according to some, since the introduction of 1994 power policy and the ensuing induction of IPPs. Because of various reasons, even innovative solutions and creation of one-stop organisations like the Private Power and Infrastructure Board (PPIB) and Alternative Energy Development Board (AEDB) have not helped much. The PPIB may propagate the large number of IPPs it has mustered, but the fact of the matter is that there are huge shortages around us, private investments seem to have dried up and the public is unable to absorb the present level of electricity tariffs. The situation attains even bigger proportions when seen in the context of the perception that the condition may never improve. Even corporatisation of the Water and Power Development Authoritys (WAPDA) integrated power wing and the resultant GENCOs, NTDC and DISCOs has not resulted in the required utility service. Incidentally, the privatisation of the 1913 incorporated Karachi Electric Supply Company (KESC) in 2005 could not provide the needed succour for its customers or could act as a success story. That, presently it renegades on all of its promises and does not implement any of the directives of the government is another issue to contend with. It will also be of import to discuss the earlier one-page governmental policy of late 1980s, which barred the public sector from adding any more thermal generation/capacity, while such addition was made the sole domain of the private sector. Resultantly, this ended firstly in comparatively expensive energy and then in drying up of the sectoral outlays altogether. Here, the glut immediately after the IPPs were inducted in late 1990s, and WAPDAs helplessness (under army management) to deal with the surpluses and its inability to understand that all of that would vanish in two or three years after which defaults would be seen, is important to note. Additionally, the capacity could not be added from any of the other two sources viz. hydel and renewable-specially, when hydel projects became subject to political squabbling and the Renewable Energy (RE) was never much in sight (it was till two years ago a non-starter even in the US). Consequently, the country is facing net capacity deficits calculated to be above 5,000 MW (excluding spinning reserves and the capacity to cater for the suppressed demand of both PEPCO and KESC areas). Experts consider this due to non-professionalism and that no one felt the need to take up a holistic view of the situation. Experts tell us, and which was also echoed by the Prime Minister during the recent energy conference, that there is an additional requirement to add 3,000 to 6,000 MW each year (depending upon various years) to the system for years to come. Especially, when the capacity requirements for 2015 are calculated to be 43,000 MW, 65,000 MW in 2020 and a whopping 1,25,000 MW in 2030. This has been predicted on the basis of the official studies conducted by the NTDC. In addition to capacity shortfalls, the public has had to face upwards adjustment of power tariffs to the tune of a little above 61 percent during the last three years. This is in addition to any burden on account of the ordinance based legislation empowering the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA), or the regulator, to levy monthly fuel adjustment charge(s). This too has been onerous each month because the existing tariff is built up around international oil prices at $70 or Rs44,000 per ton in Pakistan, whereas present rates have doubled and natural gas has simply been denied. According to the various Chambers of Commerce and Industry (CCIs), the increase in power rates is so much that businesses have floundered and industry has declared itself to be unable to compete even with the comparative economies. The situation is further compounded by the worldwide financial crunch and the policies of the Pakistani banking sector; various statements of the CCIs and apex bodies like All Pakistan Textile Mills Association (APTMA) attest to this fact. The public further faces poor and substandard service, corruption and inefficiency in the utilities, and a situation in which the federal and provincial governments and other stakeholders are perceived to be ignorant of the present mess. They believe that the power utilities are fleecing them in the shape of inflated bills. It is also thought that only the law abiding citizens are made to pay for all the inefficiencies of the utility personnel and the consumers indulged in stealing energy (about 1.47million such customers were detected by PEPCO between 2009-10, while another 1.4 million have been detected in the first three quarters of the ongoing year). Consequently, this leads to an adversarial stance between the consumers and the utilities, which is surely detrimental to any utility operations. Coming over to the utilities, it is observed that they are facing extremely low recoveries and increasing line losses. According to official statistics, PEPCO collection was only 85 percent from July 2010 to April 2011 against a collection figure of 105.7 percent for the compatible period FY 2009-10. Similarly, it lost 12,328 million KWH (units) in this period against 11,981 million KWH (units) in the comparable period of the last fiscal year. However, the concerned departments complain about the culture of non-payment of utility bills in Pakistan, especially in the small provinces. The kunda culture in the urban fringe and rural areas further tilts the balance against the utilities. That the socio-political obligations of the federal government too have to be discharged by the utilities is another burden to cope with (not notifying NEPRAs determined tariffs, along with the requirement to burden the system through wasteful rural electrification, are apt examples). Cross-tariff subsidies, which act as a stranglehold on normal operations, and the present load suppression tariff model is thought to further complicate the situation. Additionally, some of the DISCOs viz. QESCO, HESCO and PESCO desire public sector funding to bolster their sagging power system that, according to them, had been denied in the 1980s till 2000. On the other hand, the better endowed and efficient DISCOs would desire differential tariff to help their consumers. Moreover, it is assumed that utility business is under grave threat and the continuous lack of legislative support would render the operations infructuous. The utility management, besides complaining of extreme level of outside intervention, high level of customer indiscipline, extreme wasteful usage, and complete lack of response to all calls, also feels threatened by what it terms as an incompetent regulatory regime in place. There are complaints of lacklustre regulatory support and a demeanour where the distributors (DISCOs) are browbeaten and when NEPRA considers proper and opportune to hit the petitions by disregarding even legitimate claims. The Government of Pakistans stance on tariff freeze during 2003-08, and the ensuing non-payment of promised subsidies and bland response by the regulator to all this, is thought to be a proof of further apathy. That the difference in cost of service and the present tariff is not being paid by the government on a timely basis is another serious issue. The recent release of Rs120.00 billion by the federal government to clear the outstanding tariff differential subsidy of the last fiscal year is a pointer towards the grouse of the PSCEs. The utilities also think that the regulator does not seem to have any set policy and would, at the best, respond to various situations in accordance with the winds. For them, dilly-dally on rental power depicts the mindset of the regulator, while its Chairmans posting is under litigation in the apex court that further complicates the issue. However, the regulator feels that the PSCEs (including the KESC) are wayward, thick-skinned and oblivious to any check on them and that the losses being sustained are way beyond comprehension. It is considered that the DISCOs are unable to serve their customers, perhaps, the reason why NEPRA is bolstering its complaints division. n The writer is an Engineer and President of the Institution of Electrical & Electronics Engineers Pakistan Email: