4,500MW power units unutilised due to minor faults, fuel shortage

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ISLAMABAD: More than 4,500MW of electricity generation capacity remained unutilised on Thursday because of various technical, financial and fuel-related problems, with the total computed power shortage hovering at 4,800MW, which translated into about ten hours of loadshedding. A government official told Dawn that directives issued by the prime minister to cut loadshedding to less than six hours a day could not be implemented because the actual electricity demand was considerably greater than what was computed by the authorities.

Showing data from the National Power Control Centre (NPCC), the official said the maximum average available capacity stood at around 10,915MW against a demand of about 15,750MW, as computed by the NPCC. The total requirement on the basis of demand of the distribution companies stood at more than 17,000MW.

The official said that loadshedding of about 4,808MW was taking place in the national distribution network, minus the K-Electric. This meant that consumers on an average were not getting electricity for more than 10 hours a day.

He said the government disbursed Rs20 billion to the power sector on Thursday following directives of the prime minister. Thus, the total disbursement out of federal budget to the sector has crossed Rs235 billion so far, including a direct tariff differential subsidy payment of Rs195 billion at the end of March.

This is despite the fact that total annual limit of Rs220 billion was set for the entire fiscal year for tariff subsidy payments. This means that total payments out of the budget for distribution companies may go beyond Rs260 billion, given that demand is set to shoot up in June and July. Payables to generation units have already touched Rs300 billion while distribution companies are yet to collect over Rs500 billion in arrears from public sector and private consumers.

The total net circular debt, informed sources said, now stood at about 300 billion.

The sources said that about 1,600MW of generation capacity currently remained unutilised because of minor technical problems and non-availability of committed gas supplies as the government had accorded priority to supply of gas to the manufacturing sector. They said that certain “prior arrangements” for solving the technical problems could have ensured that scheduled outages of power units were delayed for some time, so as to allow time to take measures to meet peak demand in extreme summer months of June and July.

Three units of Guddu thermal power plant, having a total capacity of 225MW, have been on a scheduled outage for 70 days. Another 75MW unit of Guddu plant has remained out of grid because of a fault in its circuit breaker, while a unit of 150MW is not in use because of damages to a generator.

Two 195MW units of Guddu were closed due to high vibration, a 80MW unit due to problems in its bearings and a 115MW unit because of a fuel pump problem.

Two units of 275MW of the Muzaffargarh plant are either on forced outage or producing less power because of a fan problem. Similarly, a 180MW unit of Jamshoro plant is facing problems because of vibration in a turbine bearing.

Gas-based plants in Faisalabad (210MW) and Kotri (120MW) are sitting idle because of lack of gas supply.

In the private sector, the Japan Power and Southern Electric having a total capacity of 220MW are out of grid due to prolonged dispute with the government while the newly-established Uch-II power plant of 375MW, inaugurated by the prime minister last month, has gone out of order five times in about 32 days.

Two units of Kot Addu plant (about 1,000MW) are also on forced outage because of fuel shortage.

Officials said that hydropower units were contributing about 2,700MW to the national grid, against their capacity of more than 6,500MW, due to low water releases for irrigation.

They said the Indus River System Authority had now increased releases from Tarbela dam to 40,000 cusecs from 30,000 cusecs, to make a comparatively higher contribution to power sector but this would not make a big difference because of increasing demand due to rising temperatures.

Also, Irsa had reduced discharges from Mangla dam to 30,000 cusecs from 38,000 cusecs.