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Friday July 19, 2024

Scrambling for power

By Editorial Board
September 12, 2023

Ever since the countrywide protests against inflated electricity bills, caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar ul Haq Kakar has promised to resolve the issue. As a result, there is now a government crackdown against electricity theft across the country, which according to reports in the media comes up to eight million units of stolen electricity. From the Karachi Electric (KE) removing 17,500 kundas (hooks) from Korangi to Lahore Electric Supply Company (Lesco) region catching 330 electricity thieves, the crackdown continues. However, experts say that this crackdown is just a short-term measure that will only bring temporary relief but will not bring an overall relief unless structural reforms are carried out in the power sector. The way that the power supply companies are working also needs to be upgraded and updated in many ways.

A report compiled by an intelligence agency on power theft and line losses worth billions of rupees in various electric power distribution companies (DISCOs) of the country has revealed that the staff have neither modern devices nor training to stop power theft. This report shows what the experts have been saying over the years. As per this report, electric supply companies are unable to catch new software for electricity theft through modern chips in the meter. The report also states that a major cause of line losses is excessive length of 11KV lines, faulty conductors, damaged transformers, excessive length of LT lines and poor materials, overloading of transformers beyond their capacity. Then there is the issue of DISCOs and handing them over to the provinces. In March, then premier Shehbaz Sharif allowed the handing over of 10 DISCOs to the provinces. Last month, the caretaker federal government decided to hand over DISCOs to the provinces. We keep hearing these decisions but experts say that provinces resist this move even though the federal government should do it as soon as possible. There has to be a way to manage this issue because the country’s power sector is burdening the taxpayers and the people of Pakistan without taking any responsibility itself.

Experts say that without the government expanding the distribution and transmission of energy, making sure that line losses are managed, and electricity theft is controlled, a short-term crackdown will not bring about any long-term results. Another issue is the payments to the IPPs and the burden that is being borne by electricity consumers through taxes for capacity payments. We also need to ensure that electricity consumption is reduced because we don’t have enough money to buy fuel to generate it. With the IMF’s strict conditions, the price of electricity, gas and petroleum prices will keep increasing frequently and it will be difficult for people to manage it with such high inflation. It is incumbent upon the government that this issue be resolved as soon as possible because the financial burden on the people through indirect and direct taxes is unfair.