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National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra) has accused National Power Control Centre (NPCC) of giving preference to inefficient power plants due to which the consumers are paying billions of rupees extra for purchase of power.

On October 30, 2019, while hearing monthly fuel price adjustment petition of CPPA-G, seeking Rs 2.97 per unit increase in tariff of Discos, Nepra stated that had the units generated on furnace oil be generated from RLNG or coal-fired power plants, the total fuel cost for such units would have been around Rs 6.3 billon, thus resulting in reduction in total fuel cost by around Rs 7.2 billion i.e. Rs 54.63 kWh.

Nepra, in its comments on energy purchase data submitted by the CPPA-G for September, 2019 said that total utilization factor of thermal power plants during the entire month remained at 58.53 per cent.

By reviewing the utilization factors of power plants, Nepra has observed that capacities of Liberty power, Habibullah coastal, Foundation Power and Engro Powergen which are efficient gas based plants (ranked at the top of the merit order) have been underutilized. The utilization factors of these power plants remained at 71.38 per cent, 29.66 per cent, 77.18 per cent and 63.99 per cent respectively in September.

Similarly, capacities of Engro Power Thar, China Power Hub and Sahiwal coal which are high efficiency coal power plants in the economic merit order (efficiency more than 60 per cent) have been under-utilized. The utilization factors of these power plants has been noted at 63.99 per cent, 66.95 per cent and 43.34 per cent respectively in September 2019.

Moreover, capacities of RLNG based (high ranked efficiency more than 60 per cent), Haveli Bahadar Shahm Balloki and Bhikki power plants have not been optimally utilized. The utilization factor of these power plants has been observed as 52.41 per cent, 74.80 per cent and 77.44 per cent respectively in September 2019. Furthermore, Orient, Saphire, Saif and Halmore which are economical RLNG based power plants (having 51.2 percent efficiency) have also been under-utilized. The utilization factor of these power plants remained at 62.38 per cent, 24.52 per cent, 71.60 per cent and 65.17 per cent respectively during the month.

Nepra maintained that gas utilized at Muzaffargarh (unit 5 & 6) with 27 per cent efficiency should have been utilized compared to other efficient gas-fired power plants for economical operation. Similarly, simple cycle operation of Guddu( units 11-13) having 27.74 per cent average efficiency on simple cycle, should be avoided due to higher per unit cost as compared to high efficiency power plants.

The regulator observed that due to less capacity utilization of efficient power plants, optimal dispatch was given to the following power plants ranked at the bottom of the merit order i.e. Kapco, Liberty Power Tech, Habbco Narowal, Attock Gen, Fauji Kabirwala, Kohinoor Energy, Atlas Power, Nishat Chunian, Nishat Power and Lalpir Power etc. These plants have been ranked between serial number (51-84) of the economic merit order for September, 2019 with energy purchase price (Rs 11-16/kWh). Furthermore, considerable dispatch was also being given in September 2019 to inefficient power plants of Gencos (Jamshoro & Muzaffargarh) ranked at the bottom of merit order, having efficiency (27-29 per cent) and energy purchase price of Rs 20-22 kWh. NPCC faces this situation in almost every public hearing of monthly Fuel Price Adjustment (FCA). However, the officials of NPCC turn the table on Nepra officials, saying that the concerned officials of Nepra do not have the "capacity" to understand the power sector's technical complications."

Nepra's top bosses do not appreciate any other organization challenging the decisions taken by its technical workforce which is why during the last hearing, one of the members of regulator's jury raised questions on the intelligence level of General Manager NPCC saying that his team is more intelligent than him.

On October 30, 2019, Nepra had put off the hearing, apparently due to disputed data submitted by CPPA-G and running of power plants on expensive fuel. Nepra's Member Sindh announced the next hearing date November 5, 2019 (tomorrow).

Copyright Business Recorder, 2019