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According to experts, there will be no need to raise power tariffs on a regular basis if losses amounting to hundreds of billions rupees could be reduced via the implementation of a plan that successfully addresses the issue.

Considering the fact that large-scale thefts of energy have been occurring for a considerable amount of time in many regions of the country and that previous administrations had failed to handle the issue satisfactorily, this is not a new phenomenon.

In many areas, hundreds of thousands of households openly resort to the Kunda system. On the other hand, there are fully known regions in which electricity bills have accumulated for years, power companies are unable to recover enormous dues, and their officials are threatened with dire consequences if they even plan to disconnect power supply to such consumers.

It is only through the effective cooperation of provincial governments that have the necessary tools at their disposal to force such criminals to abide by the law that this issue can be addressed. In these areas, the problem is closely linked to the security of the personnel of distribution companies as well as the situation regarding law and order.

The decision to assign a Deputy Director-level officer from the Federal Investigation Authority (FIA) to the electricity supply firms on a permanent basis is a step that is very much appreciated in this context. In situations when individuals, commercial and industrial users steal power in conjunction with the authorities who are responsible for the theft, this might have the effect of discouraging and preventing such thefts.

The identification of the problem in areas of great concern, on the other hand, is not a problem since it is common knowledge that customers in these locations either have connections that are not legal or do not care to pay their bills. Nevertheless, the decision to post FIA officers in Discos is a reflection of the rising recognition among policymakers and decision-makers to resolve the issue.

This is because it is impossible to give relief to customers without first solving this problem in a satisfactory and meaningful manner. This was also made clear when Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif stated recently that the nation could not afford to steal electricity on a large scale in light of the precarious and appalling economic situation.

He emphasized the importance of immediately developing a strategy for the upgrade of transmission lines and the reduction of line losses on a sustainable basis. There is a direct threat to the authority of the state posed by the widespread thievery, and in order to neutralize this threat, a massive operation that the Pakistan Army supports is required.

Other technologies can detect theft; however, the government does not have the required political will to even change or install smart meters in regions that are prone to theft. Instead, the government executes the plan in Discos that are deemed to be efficient. With regard to solar net metering, there is a rumour going around for months about the possibility of the government switching over to gross metering.

This is in response to the growing trend of installing solar systems by individuals and businesses as part of their efforts to eliminate the burdensome power bills that they have been experiencing. Consumers are able to realize large reductions in their monthly energy bills as a consequence of net metering, which enables them to sell any surplus electricity generated by their solar system to their power distribution provider.

Unfortunately, officials in the power ministry are advising the government to do away with the net metering system and adjust downward the tariff for solar power produced by households. They are doing this on grounds that the net metering subsidy is given to the more affluent members of society rather than the average or low-income group.

On the other hand, the Minister has refuted allegations that claimed there would be a change in the policy about net metering. Instead, he said, the government would support the transition to solar power. This is due to the fact that the policy was the brainchild of the PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif, who gave the order to push it during his most recent term as prime minister.

Solar power is a technological revolution that is friendly to the environment, and the government should not pay attention to vested interests that want to deprive people of the benefits of this revolution. In the long run, the government would also benefit from this revolution because it will reduce its dependence on the grid and the amount of investment that is required, not only in transmission and distribution but also in a generation.

There have been two recent events that are considered to be positive for the power sector of the nation. These have given birth to optimism about the solutions to the problems that the government and customers are experiencing for quite some time.

Therefore, it increasingly appears that these problems will be alleviated in the near future. For the purpose of putting a stop to corruption, the Federal Government has made the decision to assign personnel from the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and other espionage agencies to positions inside the power distribution companies (DISCOs). Awais Ahmad Khan Leghari, the Minister of Energy, has made it very clear that the administration does not intend to scrap the policy of solar net metering at any time in the foreseeable future.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024

Dr. Muhammad Fahim Khan Jadoon

The author, a seasoned professional in the field of education (Political Science), holds the esteemed position of Director of ORIC and is an Assistant Professor at the Department of International Relations, MY University, Islamabad

Comments

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KU Jun 09, 2024 10:48am
Its a show only, disagreement on how to disagree on how to stop power theft. Estimated theft amount is over Rs.1000 billion, you think they will stop it? These are crimes against Pakistan and economy.
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