ISLAMABAD -  The Senate Standing Committee on Energy Thursday passed the 'Regulation of Generation, Transmission and Distribution of Electric Power (Amendment) Bill 2017', aimed at streamlining the affairs of the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority.

The committee that met here with Senator Mir Israrullah Khan Zehri in the chair considered two major bills - 'Regulation of Generation, Transmission and Distribution of Electric Power (Amendment) Bill 2017' and 'Private Power Infrastructure Board (Amendment) Bill 2017'.

The Regulation of Generation, Transmission and Distribution of Electric Power (Amendment) Bill 2017 has proposed establishing a technical appellate tribunal with the authority to refer back National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra) decisions for reconsideration by the power regulatory body.

Under the existing law, Nepra decisions could only be challenged in a high court.

While briefing the committee, Minister for Power Division Awais Leghari said that after increasing the generation capacity, now they will focus on fixing distribution companies (Discos). "If no action is taken, the Discos pose the risk of undermining the national economy within two years," he warned.

He said that the system of the upfront tariff has been abandoned and the government has rejected six cent tariff recommended by the Nepra for wind power generation.

"Now, the market will determine the tariff for the new power generation projects," he said.

These bills were moved to the Senate on January 24 by the minister for power but the Senate chairman referred the bills to the Standing Committee on Energy for consideration and had sought a report within one month.

While considering the Private Power Infrastructure Board (Amendment) Bill 2017, the committee decided to get a briefing on it from the Alternative Energy Development Board (AEDB) at the next meeting yet to be decided.

Leghari said that both the bills have already been passed by the National Assembly. Regarding the Regulation of Generation, Transmission and Distribution of Electric Power (Amendment) Bill 2017,' Senator Saleem Mandvi Walla had proposed eight amendments. The Council of Common Interests (CCI) had also approved the changes in the power sector of the country which will be gradually implemented in five years.

Leghari further said that the provinces had proposed lessening the experience criteria for Nepra members from 15 years to 10 years and so on their age limit has also been reduced from 65 years to 62 years to get efficient and appropriate persons.

The committee was informed that the court of law sends back 99 percent of complaints against Nepra decisions to the regulatory body for their adjudication.

Briefing the committee, Power Division Additional Secretary Zargham said that earlier the duration of power purchase agreement was 25 years which had now been reduced to five years.

The committee also took a briefing on the progress of LPG air mix plants at Khuzdar and Musakhel districts of Balochistan.

The committee was informed that the required land for installation of these plants was yet to be allocated despite a promise by the Balochistan provincial cabinet in this regard.

An official said that the Balochistan government was responsible for the delay as deputy commissioners were also not issuing no-objection certificates for these plants.

Committee Member Senator Sardar Muhammad Azam Musakhel said that government departments were not telling the truth and there was no issue of land. Other members of the committee from the province expressed anger saying that the OGRA was deliberately dithering the project.

They said that since Balochistan was a backward province and the government should be serious in resolving its issues and give these projects a priority.

Committee Chairman Zehri proposed that it was better to contact the Balochistan chief minister on the issue. Zehri directed the Sui Southern Gas Pipeline Limited to work on an emergency basis on Khuzdar LPG air mix plant as the Balochistan chief minister will inaugurate it next month. He also directed the power ministry to have a meeting with Senator Sardar Muhammad Azam and deputy commissioner Musakhel district to sort out the issue of land in a week.

The Geological Survey of Pakistan (GSP) Director-General told the committee that there are 10 projects (six in mining and four in oil exploration) will be included in next PSDP which will need Rs605 million.

A senator from Balochistan asked why the GSP was not working on human resources and the up gradation of offices. "We have heard that offices are being shifted to other places on the pretext of security issues," he said. 

The committee chairman said that Saindak project like pillage was also underway in coal mining projects in the province."We don't see vehicles on road, helicopters are coming and going to that area," he said.

The committee was also briefed regarding projects to be included in the PSDP 2018-19. They include Rs56 million for minerals mining in Uthal and Bela, Rs58 million for geological mapping in Balochistan, Rs569 million for mineral exploration, Rs171 million for the up gradation of the Geoscience Advance Research Laboratory. The committee was told that a project of Rs54 million was also under consideration for the up gradation of geological laboratories in Peshawar.