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Editorial

May 18, 2018

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Power shortage

Power shortage

Another major power breakdown in the country has confirmed how little has been done to improve the aging power transmission grid. Early on Wednesday, most parts of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa went dark after the Guddu-Muzaffargarh power line tripped. This led to faults in a number of power stations, including Tarbela, Chashma and Guddu, which amplified the power crisis. Speaking in the National Assembly, Minister for Power Awais Leghari promised power would be restored within three hours. Electricity only returned after eight hours. More importantly, he promised an inquiry into the matter. However, one must wonder why such issues have not been understood before. The grid system has tripped over a dozen times in the last five years – and one would think that the federal government has already been able to identify how to solve this recurring problem. The reality, of course, is that the government has been busy adding more power to the grid through megaprojects, instead of undertaking the (admittedly) thankless task of fixing the power distribution system. The installed capacity of 29,000MW does not match up to the distribution and transmission capacity. The inquiry report was promised to be completed within a day and perhaps there is some seriousness being shown by the outgoing government but it is frankly too late.

The current government came into power on the promise of resolving the power crisis. However, the government’s lack of a coherent plan to address the multi-layered problems in the power sector has been badly exposed. The current outage was so bad that even the New Islamabad International Airport was affected as well as the proceedings of the Punjab Assembly – which obviously allowed the opposition to create a ruckus and criticise the government. The trouble is that, with water levels low, the grid is being deprived of hydropower. This has resulted in a massive power shortage that the government has been trying to mask. Even after the major tripping on Wednesday, power sector officials insisted there was surplus electricity in the system. If so, how does explain the decision to announce ten-hour power outages for industries? This is in addition to the problem of chronic defaulters, who owe as much as Rs351.5 billion to Discos as of June last year. Almost 75 percent of this amount has just been accumulated in the last three years, which shows how poorly the current government had done on this front. Sources in the Ministry of Water and Power claim that many of these defaulters are being protected due to their political and social clout. With a dry summer coming, citizens are already preparing for more power outages. Let’s hope that the government has at least a short-term solution in place – or there will just be more misery for the public.

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