LAHORE - At a time when the average power shortfall has crossed 4500MW, the government is not fully utilising its power production plants, creating chaos for masses in this hot weather across the country.

The power sector data disclosed that the real issue is underutilisation of capacity as in March 2016 only 41.43% of total dependable capacity was utilized, said officials in power sector. The government always claims that energy crisis is due to the shortfall in production of electricity, which is actually not true, they added.

“Not running the power plants at full capacity makes them lose efficiency and per unit cost increases. Running more costly RLNG plants is adding to the woes of consumers due to increase in per unit cost whereas cheaper furnace oil based plants are not being utilized fully,’ they added. This has placed a burden on the national exchequer of incremental variable cost of electricity in March 2016, said the source, adding that the cost of electricity by RLNG was Rs 7.26 to 7.66 per unit and the capacity utilized was 59.2%.

And the cost of electricity by HFO stood at Rs 4.70 to 5.70 per unit and the capacity utilized was 41.6%, said the source, adding that within the furnace oil based plants the priority being followed is imprecise. For example, the source added, Nandipur plant is being run despite being uneconomical and inefficient. ‘Nandipur was utilized at 36% of its capacity at a cost of Rs. 7.54/kwh in March 2016,’ said the source. Similarly, plants in Muzaffargarh (capacity utilized 30%) and Faisalabad (capacity utilized 21%) are producing electricity at the cost of Rs 6.07 to 6.91 per unit and Rs 10.20 per unit, respectively.

‘It is strange why inefficient and uneconomical power plants in the public sector are being utilized instead of fully utilizing newer and efficient HFO based power plants,’ said the source.

Besides, the government publishes the Merit order fortnightly, but detailed working is not disclosed. ‘This “hidden” working enables the government to arbitrarily run inefficient and expensive plants in order to award favours to influential people,’ said the source. ‘These decisions and the misguided policies of the Ministry of Water and Power are costing the economy dearly and monthly losses accrue up to Rs. 4 to 5 billion for the end consumer,’ said the source.

Moreover, the source added, the government is planning to add more than 6,000 MWs in the national grid through various RLNG and coal based plants. ‘What is the rationale to add more capacity when the existing is not being fully utilized?’ asked the source.

Also, the source asked, if cheaper coal based plants are being set up, will they be run at maximum loads when current cheaper furnace oil based plants are not being fully utilized? ‘If the government is serious about resolving energy crisis, it should then ensure capacity utilization and a fair merit order,’ suggested the source.