The revelations in the State of Industry Report 2020 presented by NEPRA in its charge sheet against electricity power distribution companies (DISCOs) are not good, showing low recovery and high losses. Recovery of electricity bills has reduced by 1.48 percent to 88.77 percent in 2019-20 from 90.25 percent whereas the line losses of DISCOs have swelled to 26.68 percent. The two most worrying takeaways from the report however, are the noted increase in electricity costs and the increase in circular debt.

The NEPRA report has tried to blame the government for the increasing cost of electricity, citing higher transmission and distribution losses and general state of the economy which allows currency devaluation, low sales growth rate, front-loaded tariff and operation of costlier power plants due to transmission constraints. It has also held the federal government responsible for increasing the circular debt as it delayed the payments of subsidies to the power sector. However, in both of these problems, there are many more factors, most notably that of the issue of power theft.

The fact that power theft, a crime which can be easily dealt with, has not been appropriately handled shows a lack of management and cooperation. The Minister of Energy Omar Ayub stated recently that the government is making all-out efforts to control electricity theft in far-flung areas of the country and measures are being taken in a systematic manner but in the past, the federal government has blamed the provincial administrations for non-cooperation with the power sector in registering FIR against people involved in power theft.

This is one small example of a lack of interest in pursuing solutions to the crisis in the electricity sector. While the problems are varied, there are solutions for them—the government just has to be motivated enough to execute them.