Need to address system losses

AS the spectre of load-shedding is back with rise in mercury, caretaker Prime Minister Nasir-ul-Mulk has directed the Power Ministry to take steps for curtailment of power sector losses so as to improve overall system efficiency and sustainability of the sector. During a briefing on Tuesday, he was informed that the issue of circular debt would continue to haunt his government and cause electricity shortfalls because recoveries were not picking up.
As far as generation is concerned, propaganda apart, the previous government focused on the issue and successfully added around ten thousand megawatts to the nation grid. This was also borne out by the Secretary of the Division during briefing to the caretaker PM when he said that compared to 18,753 MW in 2013, the current available generation capacity stood at 28,704 MW. This means that the capacity is there but the country is unable to exploit the full potential for reasons that seem to be beyond the grip of the government. Of course, the hydel power generation has almost come to a halt due to long dry spell but the question arises as to why we are unable to generate around 19,000 MW to take care of our summer requirements. Plausible reasons for failure to meet the target are rampant theft of electricity, system losses and accumulation of circular debt. There would be no need to increase power tariff and there would be no circular debt if both individual and institutional consumers pay their electricity bills honestly but there are huge pockets in different parts of the country where theft is large-scale and the government miserably failed to check the practice. DISCOs are not equipped to check theft and pilferage effectively on their own and provincial governments are not cooperating for vested interests. There is, therefore, logic that distribution and collection should be handed over to provincial governments if privatisation is not the answer. Similarly, it is high time that we start investing in upgradation and improvement of the transmission and distribution system to bring system losses to acceptable limits.

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