Govt gets into gear to reduce load shedding

* Nawaz directs officials to divert gas supply from fertiliser, CNG industries to power plants * Orders supply of fuel to power houses through railway to avoid leakages

ISLAMABAD: Perturbed over protracted power load shedding across the country, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Wednesday directed relevant officials to immediately shift gas supply from the fertiliser and CNG industries to the power plants for generation of additional 592 megawatts of electricity. 
The prime minister directed officials to bring down electricity load shedding to six hours a day in urban areas and seven hours in rural areas within the next few days. These directives were given by the premier while chairing a high-level meeting at the Prime Minister’s House on Wednesday to review electricity generation situation and load shedding in the country. He directed the officials to supply fuel to powerhouses through the railways to avoid leakages, pilferage and corruption.
The meeting was attended by Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, Minister for Information Pervaiz Rashid, Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources Shahid Khaqan Abbassi, Minister for Railways Khawaja Saad Rafiq, Minister of State for Water and Power Abid Sher Ali, Minister of State for Petroleum Jam Kamal Khan, Special Assistant to PM, Dr Musadiq Malik and senior officers. During the meeting, Prime Minister Nawaz was told that additional 1,000MW will be added to the national grid from hydropower sources on May 11.
By the end of this month 3,500MW more would be added from hydropower sources. The prime minister directed the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources and Ministry of Water and Power to ensure that fuel shortage issue is resolved in the next few days. The meeting was told that around 630MW would also be added to the system through additional supply of fuel to the Muzaffargarh and Jamshoro power plants. Nawaz directed reactivation of the dormant power stations. 
Although the premier has termed the existing level of power load shedding as unacceptable, there seems to be no respite for the masses, as the government, besides issuing media statements, has so far not issued any concrete policy to deal with the power crisis, which has gone out of control. A senior official at the Water and Power Ministry, who declined to be named, said ironically the quarters concerned have so far kept mum over continuous gas supply to the inefficient captive power plants (CPPs) at subsidised rates, instead of gas-run efficient IPPs that were currently running on high speed diesel. 
He also said that the national exchequer can annually earn around Rs 140 billion by providing gas to these IPPs. Halmore is among four most efficient IPPs that had recently tripped due to the unavailability of diesel, he deplored. “Four IPPs, including Halmore, Safire, Orient, Saif, with 52 percent efficiency rate are running on high speed diesel (HSD) to produce power instead of gas despite the fact that their total power generation capacity is 900MW,” he said, adding, “These most efficient IPPs can produce cheaper electricity at Rs 6 per unit if natural gas is supplied to them for power generation. 
When contacted, energy experts deplored the decision of shifting gas only from fertiliser and CNG industries to the powerhouses. They said there is no relief for the overburdened masses who are already facing a high tariff for electricity for a long time.
Announced and unannounced hours’ long power outages ranging between 12-16 hours are tormenting the nation and severely affecting routine life and business activities. The prolong power outages have not only affected the daily routines of the citizens but have also contributed towards suspension of business activities in the country, badly affecting the economy. 

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