27 power plants out of order, Shehbaz told

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif was informed on Thursday that 27 power plants having a combined generation capacity of more than 7,000 megawatts are out of order due to technical problems or fuel shortages at a time when citizens are faced with power outages across the country.

The Ministry of Energy presented the list these power plants during the briefing and put the blame on the lack of direction and political support for fuel arrangements.

It was explained that nine major power plants with a generation capacity of 3,535MW were not working because of fuel shortages. They include four plants that remain closed due to LNG shortage, two due to furnace oil shortage, one for lower coal inventories and another due to the expiry of a gas supply agreement.

Besides, 18 other plants were not available for a long time due to technical faults and the lack of repair and maintenance.

Former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, who also held the petroleum ministry portfolio in the past, pointed out during the briefing that there was a complete lack of coordination among the petroleum and power divisions of the energy ministry and the matter should be addressed at the outset on priority instead of wasting time in the blame game.

He advised that the power division should immediately come up with its demand forecast to see what could be done immediately in consultation with the petroleum division and follow it up with a mechanism for such planning and arrangements.

Prime Minister Sharif requested Mr Abbasi to volunteer his time and expertise and advise the two divisions in this regard because it appeared to be a serious issue and could not be left unaddressed.

A source who attended the meeting said the briefing by the energy ministry appeared to be a charge sheet against its past political leaders, as it was explained that there would be no power shortage but plants were shut for fuel and technical constraints.

The meeting noted that the previous government did not take timely steps to remove technical faults or arrange spare parts for repair or proper maintenance procedures had not been pursued. Most of the faults were of administrative nature but some also involved policy problems.

The prime minister expressed displeasure over the overall situation and lamented that the citizens had to face extended hours of load-shedding across the country while power plants were shut for one reason or the other, even though these should have been available for generation in these testing times.

“This kind of negligence is unacceptable,” the prime minister was quoted as saying while directing the power division and its companies to address these challenges immediately. “We cannot tolerate such a situation to prolong as the people suffer during the holy month of Ramazan,” he was quoted as telling the power division.

The sources said the prime minister would be holding a series of sessions on both sides of the fuel and electricity suppliers and producers over the next couple of days.

According to a presentation, the 210MW Liberty power plant has been closed since Dec 18 due to gas supply disconnection by Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Ltd on account of non-payments because of funds stuck in circular debt.

Besides, four plants having a combined capacity of 1,200MW — including Rousch, Nandipur, Fauji Kabirwala and Gas Turbine Faisalabad — have been out of the system since Dec 13 due to the non-availability of regasified LNG.

On top of that, the 120MW Habibullah Coastal power plant was also not operational due to the expiry of its gas agreement in October 2019. Also, 550MW Jamshoro and 840MW Muzaffargarh plants were also closed since April 8 due to the non-availability of furnace oil.

It was reported that it was not clear how long these plants would remain out of the system.

The Sahiwal coal-fired plant of 620MW was not functional due to a coal shortage since March 20 but is expected to be back on stream by April 20.

Also, 18 plants with an overall capacity of 3,605MW were out of order — some of them for more than a year — due to technical reasons.

The prime minister directed that all faults should be removed and plants should be brought on stream urgently.

Meanwhile, power regulator Nepra also sprang into action and took serious notice of load-shedding taking place across the country.

The regulator has summoned the chief executives of power plants that aren’t working due to fuel or technical reasons to Islamabad on Friday to come up with explanations with evidence.

The regulator also took notice of complaints pouring in from consumers of all distribution companies, including K-Electric, over excessive power cuts and called their CEOs for an explanation on April 19.

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