ISLAMABAD - National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra) has issued annual report (2012-13) and admitted that country’s economy was affected critically during outgoing year and the year remained not good for the power sector due to various reasons including hike in power tariff, hours long load shedding, circular debt etc

The regulatory authority (Nepra0 in its annual report 2012-13 consisted of 117 pages has also divulged that over the past few years, including the last fiscal year (2012-13), Pakistan’s power sector has witnessed lowest ebb in history. Challenged with long hours of load shedding, overloaded infrastructure, power losses, circular debt, capacity shortfalls etc, the economy was further set back due to increasing generation costs that translated into electricity price hike. The regulator further declared that hours long power outages and sky high circular debt have caused negative impact on country’s economy while investors in power sector earned heavy profits.

Highlighting core issues that are plaguing this vital sector of the country, the regulatory authority (Nepra) has pointed out circular debt as one of the core problems during the year 2012-13. The payments made by the government (GoP) to clear the debt did provide relief to the system but not on long-term basis. Similarly, the prevailing law and order situation has not only made it difficult for the distribution companies to check electricity theft and improve bill recovery, it has also seriously hampered Pakistan’s capacity to attract investment in the power sector. Again, the increasing cost of generation, transmission and distribution remained a critical problem largely because of generation mix which continued to be dominated by thermal power plants operating on furnace oil and HSD (high speed diesel) while cheaper sources like hydel, gas and coal remained low beside old and low efficiency of the power plants operational in the country for a long time.

“Substantial improvements need to be made in terms of efficiency of generation, transmission and distribution to reduce the irrecoverable energy losses that have not been at a desirable level,” the report said. The Nepra while raising concerns over the government policy regarding developing small coal-power plants has also advocated construction of most efficient coal based power plants and arrangements of uninterrupted supply of coal and coal pricing etc.

“In view of the urgent requirement of efficient base-load plants for the country, the commissioning of most efficient coal based power plants with super/ ultra super critical boilers is required,” said Nepra report. Besides raising impact of wind and solar power plant on the basket price of electricity, Nepra’s annual report (2012-13) said that the efforts so far made to explore the renewable energy potential focusing on bringing wind and solar power plants has been proved successful in attracting the investors while solar and wind power plants are inefficient to bear heavy load but require heavy investments. However, the regulator asked to carefully analyse the overall impact of specific technology vis-à-vis the objectives of availability of affordable electric power for end consumers in the long run and then move forward. “Further, given the specific location of wind power plants, heavy investment will be required to develop transmission network, which may not be used at optimum level due to wide variation in plant load factor besides higher T&D (transmission and distribution) losses in transmitting electricity to the distant load centres.”

Determining power tariff of the power distributing companies, and safeguarding the interest of consumers and protection them from discriminatory treatment or victimisation on the part of power sector companies are the vital objectives of Nepra. From July 2012 to June 30, 2013, the Consumer Affair Division of Nepra has received total 3394 complaints and disposed off 3295 complaints.