Silver-lining on power front


THE power sector is plagued with numerous challenges but the steps being contemplated by the coalition government are seen as a silver lining on the power front. The National Assembly Standing Committee on Energy (Power Division) has been informed that the distribution companies (DISCOs) would not be privatized and instead recovery of those feeders with losses would be outsourced. Minister for Power Khurram Dastgir also explained several measures that the Government intends to implement to resolve the problems being faced by the sector and to move towards provision of electricity to consumers at affordable rates.

It is, however, a matter of shame that despite tall claims the successive governments could neither address the menace of electricity theft nor take effective action against individual and institutional defaulters. It was because of their failure to establish the writ of the State that there were proposals to privatize DISCOs, a move that was being resisted by not only employees but also the people in view of bitter experience of privatization of K-Electric. It would have been much better if the idea of handing over discos to the provincial governments was implemented as they are better equipped to take action against theft and default. However, in the given situation, the strategy to outsource recovery in feeders with losses seems to be the better option but the question arises if a contractor can brace the challenge of recovery from defaulters then why can’t the Government. The decision to shift all big consumers to the Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) System by June is also one of the concrete steps to check electricity theft besides IT-based monitoring of the transmission system.  Similarly, the plan to set up a point in Southern Punjab to control power breakdowns (as witnessed in the past including the recent one) might also help avoid the possibility of country-wide shutdowns in future. From consumers’ point of view, there need to be swift movement towards provision of electricity on cheaper rates as the tariff has reached its limits due to pressure of the IMF and in this backdrop, the decision to add solar power and enhance use of local coal to reduce dependence on imported coal are steps in the right direction but there is also a need to upgrade distribution and transmission systems to make the supply reliable.