Mr Minister! It’s Nepra report, not Geo News, which raises questions

Federal Minister for Energy has contradicted the State of Industrial Report 2021, published by the regulator, National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra), in his tweets and in his limited interaction with the media. Interestingly, he is not offering any other version, but just relying on the denial of the content of report and discrediting the media, which is using the report to raise questions on underutilisation of the efficient LNG plants to produce power or violating the merit order.

Geo News programme, ‘Aaj Shahzeb Khanzada Ke Sath’, in its show on Friday, shared the data from the report, compiled by Nepra, and raised a question on the performance of the Ministry of Energy that why the ministry was delaying the purchase of LNG, which was costing the public dearly. And why the government was increasing the production of electricity from the plants being run on furnace oil, which was the costliest way of power generation, which could be avoided by utilising RLNG power plants on their

full capacity, which were the source of production of low-cost power generation. The report by the regulator, suggested that the government was producing 18 per cent of power from the RLNG plants, which was 21 per cent last year in August. Similarly, the government was producing less power from coal source, which was another low-cost source of power production.

Despite using these plants on their full capacity, the government was producing power from furnace oil. Reports say that the share of power production through furnace oil had risen to 10.1pc in comparison to 5.4pc of last year, which was almost double than the last year generation.

Shahzeb Khanzada also referred to the findings of the report by Nepra that efficient RLNG plants had been underutilised during the period, when production from furnace oil was on the rise.

However, the minister for energy, instead of countering the findings of the Nepra report, took to twitter and just relied on the denial of the segment, aired in the show, without sharing any counter data or even without realising that the statistics and data had been taken from the report, compiled and published by Nepra, which was still there on the official website of the regulator.

On Saturday, in another Geo News show, Naya Pakistan with Shahzad Iqbal, the federal minister for energy appeared and talked about the hike in the tariff of electricity that day. Anchor Shahzad Iqbal, during the discussion, raised the question of underutilisation of efficient RLNG plants, as suggested by the findings of the State of Industrial Report 2021, the minister tried to portray the matter as if it was something between Geo News and the government, saying that he was unable to understand why Geo was over sensitive on the issue of LNG.

Anchor Shahzad Iqbal stopped him and read an extract from the report, which says: “During the fiscal year 2020-21, the power sector also witnessed the challenge of fuel supply.

“The system operator reported that it had been conveying its demand of RLNG to the quarters concerned well before the time, but still it couldn’t get the required volume of RLNG. Resultantly, at occasion, various RLNG plants were either unutilised or underutilised.”

The minister replied that 80 or up to 90 per cent of utilisation of the RLNG plant could be attained, but anchor again said that report was criticising the ministry for unutilisation or underutilisation of plants. The minister, however, claimed that Nepra was not criticising the government.

The anchor read another para from the report, which said, “During the fiscal year 2020-21, the power sector witnessed underutilisation of most efficient power plant and some other cost-effective power plants. Underutilisation of these plants, that is operating these power plants on partload is reducing their efficiency and increasing their energy purchase price on one the hand and on the other hand unutilised capacity is increasing their per unit capacity payment.”

The minster, rather than replying to it, started challenging anchor to contradict the statement, made by the minister in the show. The anchor asked him that professionalism demands reliance on the official reports to raise question, but the minister kept on insisting to make it a political debate.

On Sunday, a spokesperson for the finance minister Muzammil Aslam appeared in the show, and again, the question of violating merit order, as described by the Nepra report, was put before him. He, in reply, shared numbers suggesting that there was not any violation of the merit order. But the anchor, again quoting the report, told the spokesperson that Rs6.8 billion were held on account of deviation in the merit order.

This is a dilemma of the government that when the ministers related to specialised sectors like energy, power and finance are questioned on the basis of reports, which raise questions on the performance and deliverance of the ministries, rely on politicising the issue, question anchor and the forum rather than providing answers, without knowing that the report has been published by the regulators related to the ministries.

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