LAHORE: The underutilisation of the most efficient RLNG-based power plants is contributing to the widening electricity shortfall, and piling up circular debt, while power managers seem napping on the situation.
Official sources confirmed on Saturday that indents (orders or demand made by the federal government) for several thermal power plants, having the least per unit cost, have been far less than their capacities. This violation of merit order has resulted in greater deficit in power demand and supply as well as higher per unit cost of generation.
Indent for such newly constructed power plants are 50-70 percent of total capacity, which is totally incomprehensible. These plants can run non-stop on full capacity for a whole year. Due to underutilisation of these plants, government will have to pay capacity charges additionally, further increasing per unit cost of generation.
If these most efficient plants, which are located in or near the load centres, are not allowed to run at full capacity, one can imagine the fate of lesser efficient plants.
Maximum utilisation of these efficient plants will also help reduce transmission losses.
The shortfall in electricity demand and supply has officially swelled to 3,600 megawatt due to this unfortunate trend, causing six to 12 hours of outages daily.
According to Power Information Technology Company (PITC), an arm of Power Division, Ministry of Energy, deficit in average demand and average withdrawal of electricity on August 30 snowballed into shortfall of 3,696.
The yet-to-be fixed constraints in transmission and distribution system are also causing outages in certain pockets across the country
The higher per unit cost due to running of relatively inefficient plants is contributing in swelling of circular debt, and in return fuel supply is being squeezed due to resultant liquidity crunch.
“We are badly trapped in a vicious circle due to bad management of power affairs,” source said, while commenting on closed or underutilised power plants.
When contacted, Public Relations Officer of Power Division did not turn up to give their version.
An official of the Power Division contradicted shortfall figures of PITC. He claimed that power deficit has never reached to 3,600MWs.
Talking about underutilisation of efficient plants, he insisted that running of power plants was strictly as per merit order, which cannot be violated.
However, he hastened to add that in certain circumstances base load plants were run in order to maintain stability of transmission system.
For example, he added, HUBCO plant does run without merit order and it was allowed under the existing set of system. The official continued to say that problem of not running power plants is primarily not associated with dispatch orders issued by the National Power Control Centre (NPCC)
but with electricity consumption trend of distribution
companies (Discos) after catering for areas where losses are high. They draw that much electricity as they need to schedule their load management plan.
Official conceded that running of power plants was not nowadays based on demand and supply but something related to system losses.
He added that DISCOs were not fully drawing their quota because of overloaded
11kv feeders also despite the fact that generation capacity was there to feed the national grid.