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ISLAMABAD: Minister for Energy, Omar Ayub Khan said on Wednesday that inquiry report on the recent country-wide blackout will be made public within a couple of days along with a future strategy to avert such types of incidents.

He gave this statement before the National Assembly Standing Committee on Power, presided over by Chaudhry Salik Hussain.

"Three committees are investigating the incident. One is internal committee of the Ministry and second is constituted by the NTDC. Nepra, which is an independent body is also investigating the incident," the Minister added. Secretary Power, Ali Raza Bhutta, assured the committee that the inquiry committee report will be tabled before the committee, in its forthcoming meeting.

The Ministry has constituted a committee to look into the reasons and the addressal of these. On a preliminary investigation, 6 to 7 officers/officials have been suspended. The Members opined that the report when finalized, should be submitted to the Committee and an exclusive session should be held on this.

The Ministry acknowledged that protection equipments existed at the plant, adding that this will also be investigated as to why protection mechanism failed.

The Chairman Standing Committee noted that Pakistan earned embarrassment at the international level due to the blackout.

Chairman, Nepra, Tauseef. H. Farooqi, informed the committee that Nepra constituted its committee four days ago, which has already reached the plant, adding that the task will be completed in two weeks. He further stated that for the first time two experts on the protection mechanism from the private sector have been included in the committee.

The Chairman Nepra stated that Nepra will come up with such kind of recommendations that the government should not face this type of embarrassment in future.

"We are even unable to close circuit-breaker, due to which the entire country plunged into darkness," said, Farooqi.

Mr. Saif-ur-Rehman, MNA from Karachi, walked out from the committee due to absence of Chief Executive Officer (CEO), KE, and purportedly inappropriate attitude of the Sub-Committee led by Mr. Lal Chand, which was meant to resolve his grievances related to Karachi.

Saira Bano, MNA said, that CEO KE did not appear before the committee three or four times despite invitation.

Minister for Energy, however, urged the Committee Chairman to call CEO KE in the next meeting, and assured that he would be present.

On this, Saira Bano said that she would bring some sweets in the committee if CEO attends the meeting. The committee decided to summon the CEO KE in its next meeting

She added that everyone who comes to the standing committee should pressurise KE management to carry out his or her four or five tasks.

The committee also discussed the current status of negotiations with Independent Power Producers (IPPs).

Saira Bano in her comments said that private television channels hosted talk shows referred to an “NRO” to IPPs by paying them an amount of Rs 450 billion. The minister replied that no “NRO” is to be given to IPPs.

"No NRO is given to the IPPs, its all a misconception. We have to look into ways to rationalize the pacts signed in 1994, 2002 and 2006 power policy plants," said the Minster for Energy.

The Chairman of the Committee Salik Hussain remarked that the MoUs signed with IPPs by the past governments have not been beneficial for the masses. He further contended that IPPs overstated their investments and he has documentary evidence which can be shared with Power Division. He said these MoUs need to be reviewed and lacunae addressed and removed. These IPPs have already recovered their investments and it is high time that outcome of negotiations with the IPPs should also be beneficial for the masses and that the circular debt which has increased manifold should be completely written off.

"As IPPs have already recovered more than their actual investments, the government should place documents before them and seek better deal or discontinue engagement with them in future," said, Ch Salik Hussain.

According to him, IPPs “cheated” the government to get better tariffs and what investment they showed to the government, was half or 60 per cent actual figures, and he can prove it with documents.

The Secretary Power replied that this aspect can be looked into, if evidence is shared with the government. Ch Salik Hussain, assured the Secretary that he would provide documentary evidence. He also said that masses should be given relief in their electricity bills. The Ministry was appreciated for putting in its best efforts as far as negotiations with IPPs are concerned.

Secretary Power requested him to share available evidence with the Ministry.

Ali Raza Bhutta noted that a committee negotiated with the IPPs and as a result of negotiations, MOUs were signed which are non-binding.

IPPs have to do away with linkage of dollar with their payments. and they have agreed on reducing the Rate of Return and freezing the dollar parity with rupee.

The Minister for Energy informed the committee that payment of of Rs 450 billion to the IPPs relates to energy which they sold to CPPA.

The Secretary said this amount is related to capacity payments and energy price which the government failed to pay.

Commenting on the payment of Rs 53 billion to IPPs, the Secretary Power said that this amount relates to a report published in the media, in which it was stated that prima facie, IPPs have earned Rs 53 billion over and above their agreements but the decision to recover this amount from the IPPs will be taken by Nepra.

"This is an allegation as it is written in a report but this has not been investigated by any organisation/agency," Secretary Power said, adding that Nepra is the best forum to investigate it as it approved tariff for the IPPs.

"When agreements will be signed with the IPPs, then one can say that the government has given them NRO or not," he maintained.

Regarding installation of new meters and transformers etc, the Minister said a system is being developed in such a way that the consumers will be able to buy such things from approved private vendors.

The minister informed the committee that in 2013, the amount of capacity payment was Rs 185 billion, which increased to Rs 642 billion in 2019. It will be Rs 860 billion in 2020 and reach Rs 1.455 trillion by 2023 per annum, which is 686 per cent increase from 2013.

The Secretary Power noted that 25 per cent share of circular debt is due to Discos' inefficiencies and lack of recovery, whereas there are different elements ar work accounting for the remaining 75 per cent circular debt. To resolve this issue, a comprehensive plan has been formulated which will be shared with the cabinet in the next two to three weeks.

He said the power consumption targets were not achieved due to Covid-19 and other factors but at the same time, new capacity is higher than the projections.

On a question raised by Saira Bano regarding increase in tariff, Minister for Energy smiled, saying "read my lips".

The Minister also informed the committee that billing, security and many other tasks of Discos are being outsourced. He said Discos Boards have been allowed to hire fresh people in accordance with the prescribed criteria. The committee was also informed that surplus employees of Gencos will be adjusted in Discos.

The Bills "The regulation of Generation, Transmission and Distribution of Electric Power (Amendment) Bill, 2020" and "The Pakistan Penal Code (Amendment) Bill, 2019 (No. XXV of 2019)" were deferred for the next meeting.

Besides Minister for Energy Omer Ayub Khan, the meeting was attended by MNA's Sher Akbar Khan, Mehar Ghulam Muhammad Lali, Ghulam Bibi Bharwana, Abdul Ghafar Wattoo, Saif Ur Rehman, Lal Chand, Engr. Sabir Hussain Kaim Khani, Saira Bano, Azhar Qayyum Nahra, Mian Riaz Hussain Pirzada, Sardar Muhammad Irfan Dogar, Muhammad Afzal Khokhar, Raza Rabani Khar, Syed Ghulam Mustafa Shah, Secretary Ministry of Power Division and senior officers of the relevant departments.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021