Home Latest News ‘Economic Loadshedding’ to Continue in Areas with High-Loss Feeders

‘Economic Loadshedding’ to Continue in Areas with High-Loss Feeders

Energy minister says penalizing power theft and losses will ensure availability of maximum electricity for consumers

by Staff Report

File photo of Awais Leghari

Energy Minister Awais Leghari on Thursday warned that areas with low recoveries will continue to face lengthy power outages as sporadic protests broke out nationwide over unannounced loadshedding amidst an ongoing heatwave.

Addressing a press conference in Islamabad, he said high-loss feeders, technical faults and electricity theft are major reasons for power outages, adding the system would be revamped gradually to end loadshedding. Providing some details, he said the country currently has a shortfall of 4,232MW, which high-loss feeders cannot bear, adding there are 150 loss-making feeders in Punjab; 700 in Sindh; 350 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa; and around 80 in Balochistan.

“Economic loadshedding has been in practice for six years now and will continue till distribution companies change course and reduce losses and we are able to cut costs,” he said, adding that abandoning the practice would lead to the circular debt increasing by Rs. 1,200 billion annually, raising consumer tariffs by Rs. 5-6/unit.

He further explained that feeders with 20-80 percent losses were currently facing power cuts of 15-16 hours. “If we supply electricity from these feeders, the economy that is already struggling will collapse,” he claimed, while stressing that there were no issues of capacity, which is in surplus. While admitting that some feeders with minimal losses had also faced power cuts, he blamed this on “incompetence” and said the government would correct it.

Leghari said he had instructed power distribution companies (DISCOs) to improve their overall performance and minimize loadshedding. Additionally, he said, he had directed the DISCOs to make public the daily supply and demand of electricity. To a question, he said the management of DISCOs would be replaced with competent personnel.

The minister said the federal government was working with all provinces to address power theft and losses, adding this would ensure the maximum electricity available in the system could be supplied to consumers. As an example, he said an area of his constituency used to get electricity for only three hours daily because of high losses but this was reduced to zero after removing faulty transformers, cutting illegal connections, and arresting power thieves.

To a question, Leghari reiterated the government had no plans to abandon the solar net metering policy introduced in 2017. “Policy adjustments would be made in consultation with all stakeholders in future if needed,” he said, adding that electricity units imported from consumers would be adjusted against units exported, and the buyback rate for surplus procurement from consumers would be brought down in line with the basket rate.

NEPRA dissent

Contrary to Leghari’s claims of the “necessity” of economic loadshedding, however, NEPRA chief Waseem Mukhtar said this was in violation of the NEPRA Act. Addressing a public hearing on monthly fuel cost adjustments, he defended NEPRA’s fining of five DISCOs Rs. 50 million each for revenue-based loadshedding, noting this penalized honest consumers.

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