On November 6 Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif promised the reduction of load-shedding by fifty per cent across the country. On November 9 the Minister of State for Water and Power Abid Sher Ali stated that government was utilising all its resources for power generation in order to eliminate load-shedding by 2018. These statements, reflect some amount of responsibility being taken by the PML-N to keep the promises they made when contesting the 2013 elections. If the PML-N can make sure that load shedding ends, and that industry and agriculture can get an uninterrupted supply of electricity, their incumbency advantage will increase manifold.

But has load-shedding actually been decreased? The duration of power breakdowns is less this year compared to the previous year and Secretary Water and Power Younas Dhaga has claimed that work had been started to implement the PM’s directions to reduce the duration of load-shedding. The hope is that load-shedding in urban areas would be reduced from six hours to three hours, and in rural areas from eight hours to four hours. These steps have not been taken yet, but hopefully will.

NEPRA (National Electric Power Regulatory Authority) announced on Friday that most transmission line and grid system improvement projects were behind schedule. Bringing an end to load-shedding by 2018 would be unlikely. Transmission systems should be in place six months before commercial operation of power plants to ensure seamless testing and its economic benefit during the testing phase, but major transmission line and transformation system projects are behind schedule by six months to three years. While the 4,500MW of additional power generation capacity that Water and Power minister have promised would be available by 2018, there are not enough transmission facilities to effectively absorb it, resulting in its dispersal on unreliable lines. NEPRA also accused the NTDC (National Transmission and Dispatch Company) of mishandling projects for power stabilisation that result in line losses and power breakages.

The NEPRA report shows that PML-N’s claims are based on optimism alone. While it is true that efforts are being made to add power, the national grid just does not have the capacity for adding power without transmission lines being built.

To make matters worse, there is a 40 per cent shortfall of gas for domestic consumers. The country is importing Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) but it cannot be used for domestic consumers and is going into electricity generation. With the complexity of power generation in Pakistan, the dream of being warm in winter and cool in summer will not be turning into a reality by 2018.