ISLAMABAD - The National Assembly standing committee was informed yesterday that the power distribution companies are unable to collect electricity bills from the ‘no go’ areas in Punjab.

The tube wells owners patronized by a local organization is hindering the collection drive and allowing no one to enter their areas, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Lahore Electric Supply Company (LESCO), Qaiser Zaman, told the National Assembly Standing Committee on Water and Power here. “When our staff go there for bill collection or to disconnect supply, they beat them and even some workers were martyred,” the Chief LESCO said.

He said that people in those areas have stopped paying bills since 2011 and the Punjab police is not cooperating in the collection drive which has resulted in the increase of arrears to Rs 12 billion, from Rs 3 billion in 2011, in the LESCO region. Similarly, the arrears in MESCO region also reached Rs 8 billion, he added.

The meeting of the committee was presided over by Arshad Khan Laghari which discussed the point of order raised in the House by Syed Khursheed Ahmed Shah, Leader of the Opposition, regarding electricity theft in Punjab, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The Committee was briefly apprised by the Ministry about the theft of electricity in all DISCOs of Punjab, Sindh and KPK and informed that efforts were underway by improving the infrastructure and disciplinary actions have also been taken against the officials involved in theft of electricity. The Committee was informed that solar, wind, hydel and terbella-IV power projects have been initiated to overcome the shortfall of the electricity which would be completed by the end of 2016.

While briefing about the line losses, the Ministry official informed that most of the transmission lines were in deteriorated condition and need to be updated which would be helpful to reduce the line losses of the system.

Rao Muhammad Ajmal Khan said in his tehsil there are 5600 tube wells but 2100 under the Kisan Ittehad, are paying a fixed bill of Rs 1000 per month. The rest of 2900 tube well owners are suffering because of them as these tube wells are sent Rs3000 to 5000 extra bills. Four years ago these tube well owners were afraid of even a line man but now XEN cannot dare enter their areas and check their meters.

Rao Ajmal further said that couple of years ago the industries were being charged at Rs 21 per unit while the unit price of tube wells was fixed at Rs 10.38. But now the situation has been reversed as the per unit price for industries was decreased by almost 25 percent to Rs 16 per unit but no reduction was made in the cost for the farmers.

Additional Secretary Water and POWER, Omer Rasool, said that determining the prices for the tube wells was purely a political decision and they have no say in this regard. Omer further informed that the ministry has forwarded cases of electricity defaulters whose outstanding amounts are above one lakh rupees to NAB for recovery. The ministry has sent 341,000 such cases and its total amount is around Rs 104 billion. He also informed the committee that due to constant financial review of distribution companies by the ministry, the receipts from distribution companies increased, and consequently the gap of circular debt was reduced to Rs. 40.5 billion.

Since 2014, the government has at least brought stability, predictability and improvement in power sector. There is no un-scheduled breakdown. By 2017, the government will be able to cut the energy supply-demand gap by two-third.

Minster of Water and Power, Khwaja Asif, Minister of State and Secretary were absent from the meeting. Muhammad Junaid Anwar Chaudhry MNA pointed out that during the past 18 meetings of the standing committee Khawaja Asif just participated once.

Briefing the committee about the power production and demand, Omer Rasool said that the current production of electricity is 10085 MW. Out of the total generation the share of hydel power is 4297 MW, Independent Power Producers (IPPs) is 4981MW while the government owned generation companies (GENCOs) are producing 786MW.

He said that, under the directives from the World Bank, they have capped the circular debt at Rs 420 billion. Omer Rasool said that federal and provincial departments and private sector owe Rs 657 billion. Federal and provincial departments, AJK, FATA and K-Electric owe Rs 394 billion while the private sector owes Rs 263 billion. The Sindh government owes Rs 174 billion to the distribution companies, he added.

The additional secretary categorically stated that the areas with more losses, above 90 percent, will face 18-hour loadshedding while the areas with less than 10 percent losses will face two hours loadshedding. The areas with 10 to 20 percent losses will face four to six hours loadshedding, he added.

He said that the government is following the Composite Efficiency Index (CEI) under which the grid whose recovery is less than 10 percent is facing 18 hours power outage and 10-20 percent losses areas will face 17 hours loadshedding.

He said that province wise share of electricity is 56 percent for Punjab, KPK and FATA combine 16 percent, Sindh [excluding Karachi] 12 percent, Baluchistan 6 percent and Islamabad is getting 10 percent. Out of the total electricity generation Lahore Electric Supply Company (LESCO) getting 21 percent, Gujranwala Electric Power Company (GEPCO) 8 percent, Faisalabad Electric Supply Company (FESCO) 12 percent, Multan Electric Power Company (MEPCO) 15 percent, Hyderabad Electric Supply Company (HECO) is getting 6.5 percent and Sukkur Electric Power Company (SEPCO) with 5.5 percent.  Peshawar Electric Supply Company (PESCO) and Tribal Electric Supply Company (TESCO) both collectively are getting 16 percent. Baluchistan’s only distribution company, Quetta Electric Supply Company (QESCO) is getting six percent power share, and Islamabad Electric Supply Company (IESCO) is receiving 10 percent. There are 8257 feeders of 11KV in which 449 are running above 50 percent losses, Omer Rasool said. MNA Shazia Mari questioned the distribution policy for the electricity share under which major share of 21 percent goes to LESCO.

Shazia Mari further said that majority of losses of the DISCOs are because of the government and the DISCOs official while the common man is bearing the burden. She said that out of 25.5 percent losses of the Hyderabad Electric Supply Company (HESCO) 18.5 percent are technical losses, which is purely due to the inefficiency and using outdated supply system. She said that good and bad DISCOs belong to the federal government and it is their failure to reduce the losses.

Syed Waseem Hussain said that first DISCOs over-billed the costumers and when they were unable to pay the bills their cases were forwarded to NAB. He said, don’t blame the common costumer for the electricity theft and alleged that DISCOs employees are involved in theft.

When the official said that there is low recovery and high losses in PESCO, HESCO and SEPCO, the members of the committee said that majority of grids at these distribution companies are of 66kv which are outdated since long, while in other companies it is of 132kv and above. It was the reason the losses are high mainly.