Markets to close at 8pm: Uniform power hardship for all provinces
LAHORE: The second national energy conference decided here on Monday to introduce uniform power loadshedding across the country and to take a number of energy conservation measures.
The decisions were announced by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani in the presence of chief ministers of the four provinces.
“We’re aware of the problems Punjab has been facing due to power shortage and the same will be redressed,” Mr Gilani told a press conference at the end of the conference held in camera.
The meeting did not discuss the equally important issue of shortage of natural gas.
Federal ministers for finance and power, AJK prime minister, senior minister of Gilgit-Baltistan, energy experts and representatives of international donors, businessmen and industrialists from all the federating units also attended the conference.
The prime minister said the power shortage would be equally distributed throughout the country to redress Punjab’s complaints that it was being subjected to step-motherly treatment with longer periods of power outages than in other provinces, even though consumers in the province were more regular than others in paying their bills.
Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif expressed satisfaction over the decision. He said Punjab would no longer face discriminatory and unjust loadshedding.
Mr Gilani said that as a short-term measure all government offices would work five days a week and Punjab which had earlier refused to accept the decision now agreed to it. The step would help conserve 700MW of power, he said.
Commercial centres would close at 8pm, except on Saturdays. Power supply to neon-signs and billboards, after consultation with the stakeholders, would be cut to further conserve about 250MW.
Mr Gilani said the time schedule of government offices would be determined in accordance with summer and winter requirements.
All electricity bulbs would be replaced with energy savers and special laws would be enacted to check energy theft and for expeditious adjudication of cases.
In reply to a question, the prime minister said the construction of Kalabagh Dam was impossible without consensus among all the provinces, adding that work on Bhasha Dam was executed only after all the stakeholders had agreed to it.
He said his government had inherited the circular debt problem and he hoped the issue would be resolved because Punjab had announced to pay its outstanding Rs3.65 billion dues within one and a half months and other federating units were likely to follow suit.
At the conference, industrialists and traders from Punjab had severely criticised protracted loadshedding. They said that up to 16 hours of loadshedding in the province had forced closure of industries, rendering tens of thousands of labourers jobless.
Elaborating his government’s strategy at the conference, the prime minister said increased exploitation of hydropower would reduce cost. Using coal for power generation will be a great step forward because Thar alone has 175 billion tons of coal reserves suitable for generating 100,000 MW a year.
Mr Gilani said the strategy also targeted subsidies for the lowest slab users, encouraging use of LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) and import of LNG (liquefied natural gas) to meet gas requirements.
About challenges facing the energy sector, he said these could be categorised as energy conservation, generation and distribution, receivables and payables, gas sector issues, institutional reforms and provinces’ role in energy sector.
He said the government had managed to add 34,000 MW in the power system over the past four years, besides changing the energy mix and shifting to hydel power and coal.
“For this, we have accelerated work on Neelum-Jhelum power project; finalised financing for more turbines in Tarbela with the assistance of the World Bank; starting work on Diamer-Bhasha Dam; design is under way for Dasu Dam; rehabilitation of Jabban hydropower Malakand; Jaggran-II with the assistance of France; Gomal Zam and Satpara Dam with the US assistance and Patrind Hydropower (AJK) in the private sector by a Korean company.”
Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif demanded that the quarterly schedule of gas and power loadshedding should be announced and unscheduled outages be stopped.
He said that gas supply to the power sector should be increased and the plants showing better performance be given preference in fuel supply.
Mr Sharif proposed that one-window facility be provided at the Prime Minister’s Secretariat for fast-track energy projects and a senior energy adviser should be appointed to coordinate with all federal and provincial institutions, public sector enterprises and IPPs.
He also proposed privatisation of Discos to improve their efficiency and eliminate corruption.
He said that incentives should be given for better recovery and timely payments should be made to Gencos. Similarly, an institution should be established for regulating the energy sector and 30 per cent share of the public sector development programme should be allocated for the development of the sector.
He said that power generation plants giving better performance should be provided fuel on a priority basis and assistance should be extended to the Sindh government for generation of power from Thar coal.