In a quick response to the prime minister’s decision to ask the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government to take over control of the electricity distribution system in the province, the PTI-led provincial government came up on Monday with proposals to take over the ‘integrated power management system’.
Chief Minister Pervez Khattak, in letters sent to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Federal Minister for Water and Power Khawaja Asif, made a formal offer on behalf of his government to take over administrative control of the Peshawar Electric Supply Company (Pesco) on conditions that would be hard for the federal government to accept.
“They want to give us the role of meter reader but this is not acceptable to us,” KP Information Minister Shah Farman said at a press conference after a meeting of the provincial cabinet. The implications of the prime minister’s decision were discussed at the meeting.
The conditions Mr Khattak has put forth include delegating to the province the control of power generation units set up in its jurisdiction, excluding the province from the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority’s regulatory regime, handing over of a utility (Pesco) free of liabilities/losses/ debts, and a promise that the centre will pick the burden/onus of Pesco’s annual losses for five years till its losses are brought down from the existing 56 per cent to the national average of 18 per cent.
“We stand committed to our statement (about taking over Pesco). However, our focus wasn’t merely the distribution of electricity but the entire system, including generation and transmission facilities,” the chief minister wrote to the prime minister.
In a press release on Sunday, the prime minister’s office announced that Mr Sharif would formally send a letter to the chief minister in a couple of days and ask the provincial government to assume the administrative control of Pesco.
But Mr Khattak wrote to the prime minister before the premier could send a letter to him.
The provincial government has put forth 11 conditions, one of which says: “For generation units [including Tarbela hydro power project], all necessary measures must be immediately taken so that the plant and capacity factors are improved and brought to internationally acceptable range.”
It has asked the centre to continue ‘all ongoing extension or BMR programmes, funded by the Public Sector Development Programme, as per original plan and the existing sources of funding’.
“The federal government shall address the inequitable investment through compensating allocations in next five Public Sector Development Programmes to improve electricity sector in the province,” the chief minister said. On the regulatory side, he has called upon the federal government to enable the province to effectively run the affairs of power system in the province ‘‘through necessary legislation, amendment in statutory framework, regulatory regime and changes in the power policy”.
Since hydropower generation declines in winter because of low discharge of water down the stream from Tarbela Dam, he has asked for compensation for ‘lean winter months’ by guaranteeing supply of ‘at least 1000MW to the province during winter’ from thermal power generation units for ‘seven years’ in accordance with the Karachi Electric Supply Company’s model.
In this respect, the federal government has further been asked to ‘immediately allocate’ 200MMCFD gas to the province to enable it to establish thermal power houses to “compensate” for the dip in hydel generation in winter.
Furthermore, the provincial government has used the occasion to voice its grievances against the Water and Development Authority and demanded ‘immediate’ clearance of net hydel profit arrears as per decisions of the National Finance Commissions, the Council of Common Interest and other forums.
“While the past inequities may not be attributable to your government, the present infirmities and shortcomings certainly demand your immediate attention,” Mr Khattak told the premier.