ISLAMABAD: The government is creating artificial shortage of electricity to justify the import of LNG and installation of new power projects in the country, The Nation has learnt. Ministry of water and power has either choked or completely shut down power plants of 2,000MW generation capacity for this purpose, a top official of the ministry claims.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that AES Pakgen (with a capacity of 350MW) generated zero electricity during the first three weeks of September. Similarly, 110MW SEPCOL, 134MW Saba, 135MW Japan, 213MW Orient, and 24MW RKYML also produced no electricity during the ongoing month.

“In IPPs, Kapco produced 347MW less electricity as compare to installed capacity, while HUBCO cut its production by 318MW, FFCEL 35MW, UCH2 78MW, HALMORE 96MW, HUBCO Narowal 70MW, Halmore 111MW and Atlas Power 46MW as compared to their installed capacities,” the official said, sharing official data.

About the plants working under public sector Gencos, he said during first three weeks of this month, Jamshoro produced 304MW less electricity than its installed capacity, Kotri 24MW, Genco-1 327MW, Genco-2 1172MW, Muzzafargarh 288MW, while Guddu(747) produced 397MW less energy than the installed capacity.

Multan, GTPS Faisalabad, SPS Faisalabad, Shahdra and Nandipur power plants contributed zero electricity to the national grid this month.

The IPP plants, which were shut or partially closed, include 1638MW KAPCO, which is producing only 998MW. Interestingly, the official revealed that all the plants which are not producing any electricity are being paid capacity charges.

During the month of September, Hydel generation increased considerably while the demand decreased due to changing weather but the electricity deficit still looms around 5000MW. Ministry officials, when contacted, said that only those plants have been shut which produce costly electricity while some others was closed for maintenance or shortage of fuel.

“It’s a lame excuse,” the senior official said, adding that around 2000MW plants have been closed on pretext of cost factor. Hydel sources generated around 1000-1500MW more electricity during first weeks of September and it could have easily absorbed any additional costs, he maintained. Pakistan has a total installed capacity of over 21000MW, more than its peak demand, but the country continues to face at least 5 hours of loadshedding in urban areas and up to 8 hours of outages even in off-peak season, besides the unannounced blackouts. This artificial shortage of power has been badly affecting the economy of the country.

Due to shortage of electricity many of the textiles units has been shifted to Bangladesh and many more are considering shifting elsewhere.

The analysis of Central Power Purchase Authority data seconds the allegations of the senior official that the closed plants can be run without burdening the consumer with additional costs and loadshedding can be brought to zero. The maximum load generated during the first three weeks of September remained between 14,369-15,500MW, against the peak generation of 16,500MW in July and August.

Despite the fact that hydel generation increased by 1,000-2,000MW and generated more than 6,850MW owing to ample water, the power deficit remained at around 5,000MW. During July to August, water levels are high and peak electricity is generated, however, after September, when rains subside and melting of glaciers halt, the water flow in rivers decreases.

Sources claim the plants were shut down on the orders of Federal Minister Khawaja Asif, who wants at least 5-8 hours loadshedding in the country to justify new power projects. The spokesman of water and power ministry however denied the allegation that the plants were shut down to justify LNG or installation of new plants and say that the move was to ensure supply of low price electricity top consumers.

“We are strictly following merit order,” the spokesman said. “The demand has been decreased and the hydel generation has improved, that’s why some of the plants, which produce costly energy, have been shut,” he held. But no official of the ministry was ready to comment about what benefit the consumers would get and if there would be any relief to them in the billing.

The sources claim that after working on import of LNG from last two years, the ministry of petroleum is running short of buyers when finally the import of the fuel has started. CNG sector is reluctant to buy the expensive fuel, which costs almost equal to petrol. Resultantly, the petroleum ministry, through high ups, pressured the water and power ministry to buy LNG and continue creating artificial shortage to justify the fuel.

A few months back National Transmission and Dispatch Company, an affiliate of power ministry, refused to buy the imported fuel due to cost factor, stating that LNG costs more than or equal to furnace oil, which is easily available on credit. But now the power ministry itself is interested in buying it. “Things have changed now as we have at least some idea of the price, so, now we can use LNG in the power plants,” said the spokesman of water and power ministry.

However, he did not reveal the price. Nor has the petroleum ministry revealed the price of imported LNG to the public, not even to lawmakers who have repeatedly asked the government to lift curtain on this secret. After coming into power, the present government advocated for new power projects claiming it was the only solution to the crippling energy crisis in the country.

Nandipur and Quid-e-Azam solar park are two of new initiatives but both these power projects have earned charges of corruption, poor planning and ill execution. Despite being inaugurated in May this year, 425MW Nandipur power project is producing zero megawatts, while 1,000MW Quid-e-Azam solar park too is not contributing any power to national grid due to non availability of transmission line which could connect distant solar panels to it.

Likewise, 300MW coal-fired plant in salt range was offered a special tariff, reportedly on request of Punjab government, ignoring the fact that the very costly power produced by the plant will disturb the whole energy mix.