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Will the power sector ever deliver?—II

After explaining the issues with policy and plan, governance and management of the PSCEs, it is important to explain about the operational management — especially of the Discos, which is presently being conducted through the CEOs. Surprisingly, barring two gentlemen, all of the CEOs are on the look-after charge basis and that too in addition to their substantive positions. This is most inappropriate as these people do not know about the next day, though it suits the MoE (ministry of energy) aptly. Probably the eastern mentality of curbing independent thinking has swayed the governments from assuring permanent tenures for the CEOs. Thus, non-professionalism at the governance, management and ad hocism at the operational level has created the monster of the power sector, which unfortunately is ready to even devour the Country itself.

Not to be left at this only, the situation has further aggravated on account of top heavy PSCEs — specially Discos, which are rife with strutting BPS-20 & 21 officers while 60,000 vacancies exist amongst the lower tiers, which, on the face of things, will never be filled up. It is besides the point that no O&M study has been conducted of late, whereby the top-heavy dispensation or the vacancies could ever be rationalized. In addition, both HRM and HRD are alien words with no possibility of correction and more so when the governing MoE stands bereft of any such inkling. Meaning, thereby, that this step has to be undertaken on the immediate basis, otherwise the rot would further deepen to the detriment of the state.

Consumer indiscipline is another facet to deal with – primarily, when the age-old office of the electric inspectorate has become defunct and when power regulator NEPRA is a near parking lot for special people and nothing else. More so, when we see that the reports authored by the regulator are just expensive publications; not even to be studied for any correction. etc. In other words, the regulator has to be made to change its spots: otherwise, it could also be thought to be shut down – specially, after the recent injunction that it would have to follow whatever the MoE suggests.

The recent feeble attempt by the MoE to undertake an anti-theft campaign is a point in order proving that Punjab contributes more to loss than other provinces and that the low level of governmental writ will not allow the sector to improve anytime soon. It was seen that the Discos’ staff was attacked by various elements, making it very difficult to curb and control electricity theft. As such, MoE has to be mindful of its obligations as the governor of the sector and then may assure that it assists in assuring full support to the DISCOs from the provincial governments and other LEAs under its control. This has to be the most important covenant for the MoE to follow. Once the MoE gets down to the brass-tacks, the sector receivables of Rs 2.50 trillion will have a chance to be recovered. As other than what the public owes which is about Rs. 1.00 trillion, the MoE would be obligated to recover amounts due from the federal government, the AJK, other provinces, special dispensations underwritten by the GoP itself and the KE. Imagine that the Sector is burdened by the government itself, while the MoE ignores it obligations. Probably, pushing the MoE to work would be the best way to tackle the ever-increasing circular debt equalling Rs 2.50 trillion at the moment and growing by the day.

Looking around, we further see that basically the generation cost of electricity alone makes up nearly 88% of the total cost of the product being supplied to the people of Pakistan and that due treatment, in this regards, needs to be amongst the must-do items for the new government. Until and unless it is corrected there are no chances for the people to ever receive comparatively affordable electricity. This translate into the requirement that, come what may, the long festering issue of the IPPs and allied PPAs has to be resolved. This has, thus to be taken up on the immediate basis, which can only be done through due professional advise alone.

Coming over to the tariffs, we see that cross tariff or the inter-DISCO subsidies are not the answer and nor will be able to satiate the socio-political concerns of the governments. Point in order is the present burden of up-wards of Rs 10 per electricity unit on the industry of Pakistan to support the domestic and agricultural consumers. More so, when it has led to a collapse of the industry itself, which in turn has triggered a downturn in such consumption and an increase of tariff for the unsuspecting people – specially, because downturn in consumption results in billing of raw capacity charges upping the rates.

All of the above steps are doable but only if due professionalism is allowed in the Sector. Besides, a Power Sector Advisory Council (PSAC) too has to be set-up for advising the operations on a regular basis.

Engr. Tahir Basharat Cheema, "Will the power sector ever deliver?—II," Business recorder. 2024-02-23.
Keywords: Social sciences , Power policy , Energy policy , Provincial government , Governance , Punjab , PSCEs , DISCOS , HRM , HRD

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