Electricity losses continue in the country caught in electricity crisis
According to some studies, Pakistan has a high rate of electric transmission and distribution losses and is ranked the top 14th among 131 countries. Over the last many years, these losses have been around 23 percent of the energy generated by state-owned companies and 35 percent by the privatized KESC. Comparatively, losses in T and D systems in other Asian countries are significantly lower, with Bangladesh at 16.95 per cent, Sri Lanka 14.6 percent and Malaysia at 3.8 per cent. In China the losses are at 6.7 per cent.
A recent report being authored by Senator Shibli Faraz showed a disheartening picture of power theft which stood at 3.9 percent. Based on an energy supply of 120,400.5GWh, and unit sale price of Rs 11.37/kWh, power theft came out to be Rs53.4bn. The breaking down of this head shows that there are 5.3 million non-paying electricity connections who are either willful or running defaulters (unable to pay), with their accumulative unpaid balances of Rs 404.8bn.
In the first nine months of outgoing departing fiscal 2017-18, the biggest theft of electricity was of 1.921 billion units in Pesco (Peshawar Electric Supply Company) took, creating a massive loss of Rs 23.489 billion upon the system. Pesco is right now considered to be on top of the list of companies incurring losses. Sindh has appeared to be on the second number among the provinces where the electricity theft is at higher side with 1.126 billion units stolen in first 9 months of the current fiscal year. The units valuing 1.126 billion have been worked out of Rs 16.505 billion. Punjab is not to be left behind. The sizable electricity theft of Rs 12.429 brings Punjab at the third position in the hierarchy of power thieves.
To mint money from the consumers, the meter readers use sophisticated “U” links which slow down the meters. These links are hard to detect. In some cases, the meter readers insert “U” links without the consent of consumers for subsequent black mailing. A segment of consumers are allowed unmetered supply of power at flat rates where misuse and pilferage is possible
Last but not the least, Balochistan, in Quesco (Quetta Electric Supply Company), the official document has presented a very miserable picture as well, incurring a huge loss of electricity of about 460 million units valued at Rs 6.751 billion were stolen in the first 9 months of the current financial year.
Electricity is stolen by industrial and domestic consumers with the help of meter readers and officials from the electric supply companies. There is pilferage, meters are tempered, defective meters are not replaced, meters are bypassed, and there are errors in meter reading and meter readers record reading without actually reading consumptions. To mint money from the consumers, the meter readers use sophisticated “U” links which slow down the meters. These links are hard to detect. In some cases, the meter readers insert “U” links without the consent of consumers for subsequent black mailing. A segment of consumers are allowed unmetered supply of power at flat rates where misuse and pilferage is possible. The public and private sector organizations who do not pay electricity dues are also power thieves.
Honest consumers, who would perhaps like to report power theft do not do so because of fear of victimization through enhanced electricity bills by the electric supply companies and by clandestine tampering of their meters for subsequent blackmailing by the company officials.
The cause of line losses are dissipation of energy in transmission lines, especially when the lines carry power more than their capacity. Transmission and distribution lines are poorly planned which can introduce up to 30 per cent loss . Then there is power loss in the equipment used for transmission and distribution. Corruption, careless attitude and dereliction of duty by the officials of the electric supply companies and the Ministry of Water and Power are the major cause of electricity theft, transmission and distribution losses.
Because of excessive load shedding, people have to use uninterruptible power systems (UPSs) which generally are substandard. According to some estimates, UPSs consume 2,000 megawatts of national electric power for charging. Besides, this technology is most inefficient, because it has to boost a very low power of batteries to very high power for use.
It is high time that the concerned agencies put in a concerted and honest effort to reduce losses due to energy dissipation, leakages and theft. Losses can be reduced by improving the power factor of generated electric power, use of better material for transmission and distribution lines, and also by reducing the length of secondary distribution lines, and with high quality transformers. Above all, the relevant agencies must ruthlessly curb electricity theft. Recent amendment in the Electricity Act, gave way for the establishment of a new law, is very appreciable. This new law asserts that power theft is a serious crime and its trial would be conducted in Electricity Utility Court. Those involved in such outlawed acts would be arrested instantly without any prior notification and those arrests would be non-bailable. But such laws should be implemented on emergency basis. When all is said and done, there is a strong need for a cultural change in the Ministry of Water and power, WAPDA, electric supply and distribution companies. Transparency and strict accountability should be the basis of their working. They must always remember that they are servants of the people and not their bosses who graciously allow the people to use their services. Unless this is done, the situation will not improve.
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The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint or stance of SDPI.