The government has fulfilled two of its election promises including 62 percent feeders load shedding free and establishment of the ministry of energy in the year 2017.

Other promises such as capping the circular debt, full up-gradation of transmission and distribution system, control of electricity losses/theft and provision of cheap electricity to the consumers has yet to be fulfilled.

The progress and failure in energy sector, during 2017, can broadly be divided into generation, transmission and distribution of electricity, circular debt, electricity theft and price of electricity for consumers.

Although after the disqualification of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, in Iqama case, the seat of power minister was handed over to Awais Laghari but the progress continued and finally in early November the government achieved a mile stone by announcing 62 percent area load shedding free which was a big news and accomplishment of one of the PML(N) manifesto General Election 2013.The federal power minister has claimed the system has surplus electricity but it was not being used only to minimize losses as around 40 percent feeders are less efficient, causing more loss of energy than 10 percent. The Discos feeders have been divided in seven categories starting from those up to 10 percent losses to those having 80 percent losses. “We have also devised special load-management schedule for feeders having more than 10 percent losses. This schedule is only made to control the losses, otherwise we have enough electricity generation to meet the entire system’s demand,” Awais Leghari said during a media interaction.

As per this plan the four to six hours of power outages for the feeders with 10 to 20 percent losses and 20 to 30 percent losses is being reduced to two hours, he said. But feeders with 80 percent losses would still face 14 to 18 hours of loadshedding, he added

Similarly, earlier officials in Discos were following their own course of action instead of the government guidelines regarding load shedding. The Discos officials were violating the load management plan and were providing the electricity to high losses areas and industries in mix feeders. However in November 2017 the government issued strict order regarding following the load shedding schedule and so far suspended 15 officials of distribution companies for violating the load management schedule.

According the claim of Power Minister, Awais Laghari, in December 2013 the electricity generation, in the county, was 9,279MW against the demand of 11,799MW and the system was having a shortfall of 2,520MW. As result of shortfall the country was facing 8-10 hours of load shedding during winter. While in summer there were outages of 8-20 hours. Due to commissioning of new power plants and up-gradation of old plants, the electricity generation availability in 2017 has been increased by 7,465MW, from 9279 MW in 2013, to the level of 16,477MW. In December 2017 for the first time the country has a surplus of 2,727MW against a demand of 14,017MW. Since coming into power the incumbent government has added a total of 8694 MW electricity to the system. In 2013 the government added new generation 474 MW to the national grid, 1422 MW in 2014,717 MW in 2015,920 MW in 2016 and it has reached to its peak of 5162 MW in 2017. In the summer 2017, the system generation availability reached to the record level of 20,000MW against a demand of 24,000MW.

During 2018 it has been planned that the electricity generation will be more than 25,000MW.Similarly the power generation projects of approximately 4,000MW are in various stages of completion and will start generation before summer 2018.

Interestingly, out of total new generation of 5162 MW, added in 2017, only 147 MW is hydel power. Besides, the country’s first two RLNG based power was also commissioned during 2017.

Earlier under the load management plan the country was divided into rural and urban areas where the former was facing extended hours of power outages than the later one. During 2017 the difference between the rural and urban load shedding duration has been abolished and the feeders have been divided in seven different categories on the basis of losses not location.

Another achievement of the present government was the merger of Ministry of Power and Petroleum into ministry of Energy. The decision, to merge the ministries of petroleum and power into a single ministry of energy, was taken to bring them under a unified command and to end their conflicting roles. Similarly to resolve the issue of water the ministry of Water Resources was created.

The process of upgradation  of grid and transmission development were also under way and since 2014 NTDC has completed total of 48 projects, of 220kV and 500 kV transmission and grid stations, including 29 projects in Punjab, 12 projects in Sindh, four in Baluchistan, two in KP and one in AJK, said NTDC in written reply to The Nation.

As per the claim of the Ministry of Energy’s spokesman, now the country’s transmission and distribution system has improved and can carry load up to 25000 MW. Earlier the system could carry 15000 MW electricity but in this summer generation of 20000 MW was transmitted by the system safely claimed by the spokesman of the Ministry of Energy. However, the claim was contested by the planning experts who opined that the system cannot take full load unless the transmission, grid stations and distribution system is fully upgraded and overhauled. A lot of areas of KP, Sindh and Balochistan are still facing low voltage and tripping problem due to system constraint, the expert opined.

The provinces, particularly KP, has several times complained about the uneven up gradation of transmission and distribution networks and alleged that the government is concentrating on one province.

In a reply to the National Assembly, the ministry of energy claimed that the  transmission & distribution losses have been reduced from 18.7 percent, in 2013-14, to 17.9 percent, in 2016-2017. However it was  still higher than NEPRA allowed losses of 15.3 percent. In 2016-17 the impact of T&D losses and theft was Rs 19.7 billion, the Ministry of Energy reported.

In regards of power sector circular debt accumulation, the PML(N) government stands at the same junction where it was four and half years ago. After coming into power the PML (N) government had paid Rs 480 billion to the independent power producers (IPPs) to retire the circular debt but now the fresh debt of almost the same amount accumulated again. Even the Audit department raised some audit objections on this controversial debt payment, including an Audit Para no 4.2.1 that termed Rs 32.451 billion as unjustified payment made for idle capacity of power plants. This audit report was laid before the parliament in 2015 and several meetings of the standing committee and sub-committee were held, which took briefings from the government departments, but nobody justified this payment. From the last two years Senate Standing Committee on Finance is probing the payment. Last week the committee asked the Power Division to resolve the issue of the payment of Rs32.45 billion to the IPPs under idle/ unutilised capacity with the Auditor General of Pakistan within two weeks, saying otherwise the matter will be forwarded to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for inquiry.

Till 2015-16 the government controlled the power sector circular debt and there was zero accumulation of circular debt but once again the overall debt has gone over Rs800 billion. Out of Rs 800 billion around Rs 401 billion circular debt is parked in stock arrears while Rs 422 billion is fresh accumulation. A major portion of fresh accumulation is accumulated during Rs 2017.Although the government still consider that circular debt is on the normal level.

During the tenure of PPP government they paid up to Rs 1.5 trillion circular debt and left a burden of Rs 480 billion for the PML (N) to pay, the government officials claimed. The circular debt in stock arrears during PPP government was around Rs 335 billion.

The main reason for the power sector circular debt is increase in oil prices, problem in collecting receivables, and system losses.

Although the government claims that the price of electricity was going down after the induction of the RLNG-based power plants in the system but in fact it was increased during the tenure of current government. To reduce the cost of electricity, the incumbent Prime Minister, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has issued strict instructions regarding the stoppage of furnace oil in power generation. Besides it was also directed to close all the inefficient power plants and follow the merit to ensure the cheap electricity to the consumers.

Despite the efforts of the government the electricity prices are still high and the consumers will have to wait till 2018 to reap the benefits of power policy.