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KARACHI: Although it has given various deadlines in this regard, K-Electric (KE) is yet to bring online the first unit of the regasified liquefied natural gas-based Bin Qasim Power Station 3 (BQPS-III), leaving its 2.5 million customers across Karachi, Dhabeji and Gharo in Sindh and Uthal, Vinder and Bela in Balochistan to the misery of enduring prolonged power outages during ongoing heat waves.

The utility had last year committed to turning Karachi into a ‘power-surplus’ city by 2022, but “the average shortfall observed in the last 24 hours (between May 10 and 11) was approximately 300 MW,” KE said.

As per the information collated, the commissioning of the first unit of the KE’s 900 MW RLNG-based BQPS-III combined cycle plant was first due in May and then in November 2021. But on March 15, 2022, KE announced that the ‘first firing’ of the unit was completed. However KE has not yet been able to inject this much-needed electricity into its system.

Therefore, it has been relying heavily on external power sources to mitigate the power needs of Karachi.

Sources had said in March that KE had invited former prime minister Imran Khan to grace the inaugural ceremony of the 450 MW unit. However, he was ousted from power after losing a no-confidence vote in the National Assembly and the inauguration ceremony had to be put off.

However, about a month has passed since Shehbaz Sharif was sworn in as the country’s prime minister, but KE has not been able to bring the plant online. The delay is causing hardship to the KE consumers who are being subjected to announced and unannounced revenue-based load-shedding.

The National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA) has time and again termed ‘revenue-based’ load-shedding in distribution companies illegal and in violation of the consumer manual. However the regulator has not taken any serious action against such Discos.

On the other hand, KE claims that ‘segmented load-shed’ is in line with the National Power Policy 2013 and aimed to address the issue of ‘pervasive’ power theft and load management.

As demand in the mega-city goes up, the power company begins carrying out extended load-shedding in the city.

“K-Electric is undertaking all possible measures to manage the current situation, the company may have to undertake load management in some areas to bridge the gap between demand and supply, for which inconvenience is sincerely regretted,” KE said in a statement the other day.

Addressing a corporate briefing held via the web in March 2021, Aamir Ghaziani, the chief financial officer of K-Electric, had promised to turn Karachi into a ‘power-surplus’ city by 2022, but the utility is still depending heavily on external power sources, including import of electricity from the NTDC system.

As per NEPRA’s State of the Industry Report 2020, the total electricity generated by KE through its own power plants stood at 10,358 GWh during FY 2019-20 as compared to 10,727 GWh generated during the preceding year, depicting a decrease of 369 GWh.

Industrialists and exporters have said that extended load-shedding in various neighbourhoods has affected labour efficiency and productivity in industrial zones. They say Karachi contributes around 52 percent of the country’s total exports.

It’s discouraging to see that K-Electric — the sole power provider to the industrial and commercial hub of Pakistan — has been carrying out hours-long power cuts under the garb of load management, power theft, and localised faults.

Muhammad Javed Bilwani, the chief coordinator of the Pakistan Hosiery Manufacturers’ Association, told Business Recorder that millions of labourers work in the SITE industrial zone.

“Our workers seem tired, and they are not able to accomplish tasks given to them. Perhaps, sleepless nights due to extended load-shedding are the main factor behind the poor labour efficiency and productivity.”

Consumers said that instead of putting all its efforts and energy into facilitating users with a smooth supply of electricity in the sizzling season, KE is acting as a health regulatory body by asking people to ‘stay hydrated and avoid excessive exposure in the sun’.

Syed Sibte Hassan, a consumer, while responding to this advice on Twitter, said: “Thank u, but people need electricity instead of advices. Our PMT connection is changed. Have informed you several times, but the system made by KE is not doing justice with people who are paying their bills regularly.”

When contacted, the KE’s spokesman said the current heat wave conditions across the country were driving a surge in electricity demand. K-Electric is undertaking all possible measures to provide maximum relief to its consumers.

Keeping in view the harsh weather conditions, he said KE had immediately halted all the maintenance shutdowns across the city. Furthermore, under the supervision of its chief distribution officer, the utility has set up an emergency cell which includes other senior officials of the company.

This emergency cell will continue to monitor the situation round the clock and will utilise all possible resources to provide maximum relief to the consumers.

He said KE is also collaborating with various welfare organisations to set up heat relief camps at 10 different locations in the city.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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