April 19 , 2017
Out-of-control loadshedding annoys PM
Says excuse of harsh weather unacceptable, fix responsibility; provide immediate relief to consumers; directives come as people face eight to 18 hours of loadshedding in extremely hot April; demand reaches 20,000MW against generation of 13,000MW; PPP plans protests
ISLAMABAD/LAHORE: With unannounced power outages on Tuesday continued paralysing routine life across the country amid extremely hot weather, a visibly annoyed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif directed the Ministry of Water and Power to utilise all resources to overcome power shortage within shortest possible time.
The prime minister expressed dissatisfaction over the performance and explanation given by the ministry officials and ordered strict action against those responsible for the negligence.
He made it clear that the laxity of the authorities concerned couldn’t be tolerated for not taking pre-emptive measures to cope with the situation keeping mind water shortage in reservoirs and severity of weather.
Chairing a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Energy, the prime minister said steps should immediately providing relief to the masses and directed the authorities to submit report to him daily on loadshedding and the relief being provided to the consumers.
The Ministry of Water and Power officials argued that demand had suddenly increased due to soaring mercury and water shortage in dams. They expressed the confidence that increase in water level in the near future would enhance the hydel power generation.
But the prime minister wasn’t happy with the arguments and ordered fixing the responsibility as the officials concerned failed to devise a strategy to avert the situation. Meanwhile, the messed up power supply arrangements have multiplied problems of masses as forced outages disrupted routine life in the provincial metropolis and other parts of the country amid record heat wave.
The power crisis was especially unbearable for the citizens of Lahore where the maximum temperature recorded was 45 degree Celsius, making it the hottest ever day in the city’s history.
In Lahore, shutting down power supply to more than quarter of area in one go has emerged as the only solution to curb the demand.
The abrupt forced closure of power supply through centralised system in addition to routine eight to 18 hours of loadshedding is a new norm for the helpless Lahorites. Owing to lack of increase in power generation, the emergency option of ‘routinely’ cutting power supply to large area simultaneously is now increasingly being used by the power managers after a long gap.
The National Power Control Centre (NPCC) now is more widely engaged in disconnecting supply of quarter of grid stations of a power utility due to widening of gap between demand and supply of electricity.
Resultantly, the region covered by Lahore Electric Supply Company (Lesco) is also being subjected to loadshedding exercise, leaving about half of provincial metropolis without power in one go.
According to an official, the nationwide electricity demand is presently touching the mark of 20,000MW while the generation could not be increased beyond 13,000MW even during peak hours.
The Lesco management has shifted all the blame to the centralised system, saying unpredictable electricity supply hampered efforts of providing smooth power to masses by the power utility.
On the other hand, Lesco has resorted to additional two hours of outages under the electricity management plan in a bid to stabilise under-stress distribution system.
Against the present load management plan of carrying out four hours of outages daily in urban areas and six in rural areas, the intensity of loadshedding is being increased to six hours in the city and eight hours for rural domestic consumers. The curse of unannounced loadshedding will continue in addition to these planned blackouts.
A senior Lesco official said severe heat wave led to dramatic increase in power demand in the month of April. “This phenomena has not seen in past,” he claimed. Unfortunately, he added, river flows were yet to pick up and resultant low output of hydropower stations had compounded the power supply problem.
He claimed that all the independent power producers (IPPs) were almost running at their full capacity, providing close to 8,500MW of electricity. Public sector generation companies, however, are producing relatively less output mainly due to annual closure for maintenance.
It is mainly the huge cut in hydro power generation that resulted in lower generation if compared with towering demand of electricity. The official expressed the fear that the acute power shortage would continue in coming days unless a jump in river flow helped increasing hydropower generation by 2,000 to 3,000MW.
Talking about outlook of demand and supply during upcoming holy month of Ramazan, he ruled out any relief to masses. “We will try to minimise outages during Sehar and Iftar. However, intensity of outages could almost be same. The situation can only improve if we are able to store some water in dams for generating electricity during peak demand hours.”
As far as the record-breaking heat is concerned, the Met Office says dry continental air is prevailing over most parts of the country. However, a shallow westerly wave is likely to approach upper parts of the country on Thursday.
The Met Office predicted that mainly hot and dry weather was expected over most parts of the country during the next 24 hours. However, light rain-thunderstorm is expected at a few places in Malakand Division and Gilgit-Baltistan. Very hot weather is expected in plains of Punjab, KP, Sukkur, Shaheed Benazirabad, Larkana, Hyderabad, Naseerabad, Makran and Sibbi divisions.
During the last 24 hours, no rainfall was recorded anywhere in the country. Highest maximum temperature was 47 degree Celsius which was recorded at Sibbi, Noorpur Thal, Bhakkar, Rahim Yar Khan and Khanpur, while it was 46 degree Celsius in Dadu, Bahawalnagar, Bahawalpur, Larkana, Sukkur and Shorkot followed by 45 degree Celsius in Multan, DG Khan, Kot Addu, Jacobabad, Faisalabad, DI Khan, Jhang and Lahore.
On the other hand, the PPP has decided to hold nationwide protest against the loadshedding happening in the country after the party chairman, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, approved the idea.