Pakistan: Electricity Bills Surge – OpEd


At a time when Pakistan is in huge economic crunch, is under severe IMF conditionalities and is in internal and external debt-and at a time when unemployment is at its peak, and where people are under the worst poverty rate of the history, an increase of electricity has resulted in anger and protests across the country. The ongoing surge in electricity bills is owing to many reasons such as theft, technical loss, provision of free electricity, high taxes, power generation through hydel and thermal energy, monopoly of the IPPs, corruption in the WAPDA, and paucity of electricity generation through renewable energy. 

The independent power providers are the big cause of rise in electricity prices. The first IPP came in 1994 which has reached to 42 now. As per their agreement with the government they are given 17 percent capacity charges in per bill which are extra burden on the consumers. While, the government that purchases electricity from the IPP,s on higher prices is bound to sell to its consumers with higher prices. Consequently, the prices are higher and the consumers bear the brunt. Mismanagement and higer purchasing from the IPPs has caused huge power circular debt that has reached to Rs 2.3 trillion (7.7) billion USD. 

Losses are the main causes of increase in electricity prices in Pakistan. Currently, technical loss and commercial losses in the country are 29.7 percent which are the highest in the region. The rotten distribution lines and obsolete distribution methods are still prevalent in the country.

In addition, electricity theft is an important reason of loadshedding as well as increase in electricity prices. The cost of theft is passed to those consumers who pay bill ans consequently the price of electricity per unit is increased. It is estimated that Rs 589 thousand of electricity is stolen annualy. 

Another reason of higher prices in electricity is the provision of free electricity. One estimate says that a huge ammount of Rs 1100 thousand of free electricity is provided to different officers of different institutions. This huge amount further cause rise in electricity prices as the burden of this is put on the consumes across the state who pay the bills. Passing the burden of free electricity in common consumer is immoral and needs to be paused immediately. Why should a consumer pay the price of electricity units which he has not used?

The most important reason of increase price of electricity is its generation through hydel and thermal means that is much higher than electricity produced by renewable energy generation. Estimatedly, Pakistan,s electricity production form Thermal is around 61 percent, from Hydel 24 percent, from nuclear 12 percent, and Renewable 3 percent respectively. In total installed electricity capacity that is 43775 mw, the share of thermal is 26683 mw, 10635 mw from hydroeletric, 1838 mw, from wind, 630 mv from Solar, 369 mw from Biogas, and 3620 MW from Nuclear. Pakistan that is home reasonable renewable energy has the potential  to generate immense electricity from Solar, Wind, and geothermal. Sadly, these resources are not being utilized. 

Theft losses are impossible without the collaboration of the WAPDA employees. From Meter readers to billing section to the higher authorities, corruption is rampant. We have been observing during the ongoing crackdown against electricity theives that has defaced a nexus of power theives with the employees of the WAPDA. Meter tempering is another type of theft that is mainly a hard task which needs technical and trained people. Without the collaboration of the WAPDA employees tempering is almost unfeasible. 

The government of Pakistan should pay heed to the structural issues of electricity generation and dupply alongside eradicating corruption and focusing on management issues. Until and unless holistic stratagems are adopted in generation, supply, and bad governance _overcoming power crisis will remain a dream and expecting decrease in electricity prices will resemble to live in fool’s paradise.

Naseeb Ullah Achakzai

Naseeb Ullah Achakzai is a M.Phil scholar and writes as a freelance columnist.

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