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EDITORIAL: How on earth is the power minister going to “bring transparency to the power sector” if the government’s policies insult its own laws and badly compromise the position of the power regulator?

It does look like a bad joke, after all, that the minister insists on revenue-based load shedding while Nepra (National Electric Power Regulatory Authority) is issuing notices to Discos for doing just that “in violation of laws… penalising honest consumers”.

Surely, the minister would know that this “collective punishment” variety of load shedding, which started some years ago in Karachi and was subsequently adopted by other Discos with the blessing of the federal government, was later declared illegal by the regulator.

It was made pretty clear at the time that punishing all consumers for the sins of a few among them was “not in line with the provisions of the Nepra Act, 1997, and Performance Standards (Distribution) Rules, 2005”.

Yet now that we are at this pass, and the minister is in no mood of budging from his position, he must still concede to the Nepra chairman on at least one point.

If the government is bent upon taking a path that contradicts with the Nepra Act – which is what the regulator employs when it slaps big fines on Discos – then it must amend the act instead of effectively flouting it.

There is also the wider picture to consider. This contradiction would never have arisen if Discos weren’t in such bad shape, and they’d be doing much better if the government, specifically the energy ministry, had pulled its socks up in time instead of making honest consumers pay for all the mismanagement, incompetence, theft and downright corruption that went on in the Discos, right under its nose, for years.

Even now, if it wants those who follow the rules to keep subsidising the crimes of those who do not, then it must at least tweak the law of the land to allow this practice.

And, to put all this in perspective, something must also be said about what’s happening in areas with low losses. It turns out, as per the energy minister’s own admission, that electricity to a number of category 1 and 2 feeders – with less than 20 percent losses – has also been cut “because of technical faults and maintenance purposes”.

So, some feeders under Lahore Electric, 15 percent of low loss feeders in Multan, 12 percent in Gujranwala and 6 percent in Faisalabad face cuts due to “technical incompetence”, etc.

Two things stand out very clearly. One, the whole power sector is in a shambles because unchecked corruption feeds the circular debt; with no end in sight. And two, the only solution the energy ministry has ever had, and still has, is to “penalise honest consumers”.

This showdown with Nepra was inevitable. Yet even as it is or isn’t settled, depending on what the government decides to do with the Nepra Act, the only thing consumers can look forward to is spending the rest of the blazing summer – expected to be the hottest ever on record – under savage load shedding because the government is just unable to solve anybody’s problems.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024

Comments

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M. Zahid Iftikhar Jun 04, 2024 11:06am
Dear Editor, please share an anti-dote to 'kunda', the favorite trick of thieves. There is none apart from theft-based load-shedding, since politicians would rather court votes than reform governance.
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KU Jun 04, 2024 01:17pm
Perhaps news like this one doesn't reach SIFC, or does it? If BR was to give true figures of line losses by DISCOS or details of its employees salary/perks, it would merit grand enquiry n jail time.
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