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Crackdown against power thieves on the cards

Top Story

October 23, 2018

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday ordered a crackdown on power pilferers as people would not be allowed to bear the brunt of others’ theft and government mismanagement.

Chairing a meeting of the Energy Task Force here at the Prime Minister’s Office before his departure for Saudi Arabia, Imran Khan directed the Ministry of Power to take urgent measures to reduce the electricity tariff and burden on the consumers caused by the power theft and line losses.

The meeting was given a detailed briefing on the energy sector. It was informed that a comprehensive energy policy is being devised keeping in view the next 25 years needs of the country. It will cater to the future needs of domestic, industrial consumers and other sectors. With this, energy mix will be attained, domestic resources will be fully exploited and renewable sources and energy policy-based framework would be evolved. The meeting was told that steps are also being taken to reduce dependence on imported fuel and promote use of indigenous resources.

It has also been decided to launch a crackdown on power thieves. A special task force has been set up under the chief minister in Punjab to stop the power theft. The DCOs at the district level will oversee the crackdown against power theft.

The meeting was also told that technology is widely being used to improve supply and distribution of electricity. The prime minister directed the Power Division to present a detailed plan for ensuring the availability of quality transformers.

The meeting decided to conduct seismic surveys to expedite the process of oil and gas exploration. It was also decided to provide full security to oil and gas companies working in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in coordination with the Frontier Constabulary. The prime minister welcomed the return of international oil and gas exploration company Exxon to the country and said the government will provide all-out assistance to foreign companies working in this sector. The dependence on imported fuel will be reduced and sources available within the country would be used to the maximum level.

The prime minister was informed that technology is being used on a massive scale to improve the distribution andtransmission of power. With this it would be ensured that distribution and theft related issues would be addressed. The meeting was informed that Pakistan is counted at ninth number across the world in shale gas reservoirs. Unfortunately, adequate attention had not been given to exploit the reservoirs in the past. Not a single block has been awarded for search of oil and gas in the country during last five and half years. Ten blocks are being awarded by the present government through entirely. The process is in its last stage and different companies will be awarded the task within few days.

It was informed that 30 more blocks will be awarded under special arrangements and for the purpose international road shows will also be organised. The prime minister was informed that 4 percent work has been completed at different 41 blocks awarded so far.

The meeting also reviewed hurdles coming in the way of gas and oil findings. It has also been decided that seismic survey will be conducted by the Oil and Gas Development Company Limited (OGDCL) for accelerating search for oil and gas. The government decided that security issues of the companies engaged in searching of oil and gas would be addressed in no time. Such companies will be provided complete security with the assistance of Frontier Constabulary in KP.

The companies which were engaged in searching of oil and gas in Pakistan, but left the assignment due to various reasons in the past shall be asked to return to Pakistan as their all problems would be redressed.

Meanwhile, the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the cabinet again postponed the decision of raising power tariff for the next meeting and also remained indecisive on around Rs191 billion subsidy arrears pending against agricultural tube wells in Balochistan.

It is worth mentioning that the government has several times postponed taking this decision of raise in tariff, but at the same time it says that taking this bitter decision is inevitable. The committee that met here with Finance Minister Asad Umar in the chair directed the concerned officials to submit a detailed plan for improvement in the power sector, especially measures to increase recoveries and reduction of losses, before the proposed tariff rationalisation plan could be approved.

The ECC would meet again tomorrow (Wednesday), to consider the plan and tariff rationalisation proposals. The proposal from the ministry for increasing the tariff is of Rs2.19 per unit.

While discussing proposal of the Power Division relating to payment of subsidy for agricultural tube wells in Balochistan, the committee decided to consult the chief minister of the province before taking a decision in the matter.

It is worth mentioning that owing to increasing power sector circular debt, the government has already termed increase in electricity tariff inevitable. Circular debt is around Rs1.23 trillion.

On October 16, the Minister for Information Fawad Chaudhry had said that every month, Rs34 to 36 billion rupees is being added to the power sector circular debt. The last one and half-year was worst, because the government has not implemented the recommendation of National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA) to increase the tariff.

The Nepra had determined electricity tariff by increasing it by 1.32 per unit and asked the government to notify it, but the PML-N government withheld the decision and did not increase it.

In the meeting, the Auditor General also shared a report on audit findings pertaining to financial and operational issues in the four power distribution companies i.e. Hesco, Pesco, Qesco and Sepco in the years 2016-17 and 2017-18.

The report highlighted significant areas of the distribution system responsible for line and commercial losses. The finance minister directed the Ministry of Power to take remedial measures on the issues raised in the report.

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