Energy ministry denies farmers cheap power for tube wells

Ministry of Energy has refused to extend farmers any relief over high power bills, inflated primarily by exorbitant fuel price adjustment charge, saying it was NEPRA issue, The News learnt on Tuesday.

“As far as fuel price adjustment is concerned, farmers will have to pay it as ministry of Energy has no control on fuel prices,” sources quoted Hammad Azhar, Federal Minister for Energy, as saying in a recent meeting held in Islamabad.

“We found a way forward on their other demands. FPA (Fuel Price Adjustment) is a NEPRA’s (National Electric Power Regulatory Authority) issue not power division’s. They (farmers) were told and they acknowledged that,” the minister said .

Last meeting with the minister was attended by a group of farmers including Rabia Sultan, Aafaq Tiwana, Hassan Akram, Bilal Israel, and Khalid Khokhar.

They were of the view that power bills of agriculture tube wells had increased significantly in less than a year mainly due to high rate of fuel price adjustment.

Several power bills were shared during the meeting where farmers had to pay over Rs100,000 rupees more over utilisation of almost same volume of power units.

For instance, Mohammad Mohsin, a farmer residing in Fort Abbas, had to pay Rs383,126 against use of 30,883 power units in in the month of November 2021.

However, in January 2021, he was billed Rs288,103 against consumption of 30,324 units.

It simply means farmers are being charged by 33 percent more against same amount of electricity for running tube wells in less than a year. It is a huge burden on farmers, who are forced to use underground water for irrigation purposes due to shortfall in canal supplies and lesser rains.

The meeting was also informed that almost 70 percent farmers sell water pumped out by tube wells to nearby growers.

However, fluctuating fuel price adjustment rate, which is charged after three four months, is hard to reconcile in the charges of water sold to growers. Hence, sharing of water becomes impractical for them.

In a new development, Federal Minister for Energy asked farmers on Tuesday to go for solar energy for reducing their agriculture tube wells power bills.

All the power companies have been directed to inform the farmers about the installation of net-metering on solar powered tube-wells and remove all the hurdles immediately, according to the statement.

“This facility will significantly reduce tube well electricity bill,” said Hammad Azhar.

He noted that no licence or NOC was required for getting net-metering connection up to 25KW.

However, several users have complained that solar power based net-metering connections are not being processed by power distribution companies. For instance, Lahore Electric Supply Company (LESCO) have so far not processed about 50 percent applications, submitted to power utility for installation of net-metering.

Moreover, the connection based on solar net-metering is not being offered by all distribution companies. For instance, a consumer said, he wanted to install solar net metering, but Hyderabad Electric Supply Company did not offer such facility.

Another consumer complained that LESCO was purchasing power units from us under net-metering at Rs9.9/unit and supplying us power at more than Rs18 plus taxes and FPA.

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