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No gas for electricity: Power crisis worsens as gas-fired plants halt generation

LAHORE: Power crisis in Punjab worsened on Saturday after most of the gas-fired power plants stopped generation, leaving millions of consumers with no option but to face unprecedented loadshedding during chilly weather.

The major power distribution companies (Discos)– Lahore Electric Supply Company (Lesco), Multan Electric Power Company (Mepco) and Faisalabad Electric Supply Company (Fesco) –started observing frequent outages without any schedule due to increasing shortfall besides forced shutdowns on the pretext of protecting the system in an uneven situation.

“At present, there is no generation from all gas-fired power plants except 1,200MW Haveli Bahadur Shah (Jhang) and over 200MW Orient Power. The main issue is unavailability of gas for the plants as only 130MMCFD is being supplied to Haveli and Orient plants,” a senior official of the power ministry told Dawn.

“The total demand (on average) on Saturday remained at 10,500MW whereas the supply ranged between 7,000 to 8,000MW. So the shortfall ranged between 2,000MW to 3,000MW, leaving Discos with no option but to observe loadshedding on an hourly basis,” the official added, requesting anonymity.

According to another official, the major power plants that continue to be out of the system either due to gas shortage or other technical reasons include 1,200MW Balloki (Kasur) and 1,200MW Bhikki (Sheikhupura). The Haveli Bahadur Shah (Jhang) plant is in operation but it is not being operated as per its capacity due to short gas supply.

“Balloki plant is not in operation since Friday after the Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Ltd suspended its supply. Similarly, Bhikki too is not working due to unavailability of gas. Only Orient and HBS (Jhang) are in operation,” the official added.

He said most of the gas had been diverted to domestic sector since its demand continued rising with the increase in cold. He said the hydel power generation was also squeezing gradually due to low water flows. On Saturday, the 969MW Neelum Jhelum Hydropower operation too went out of the system after the engineers started carrying out its detailed inspection (four units, electrical and mechanical equipments etc) for 29 days under the contractual obligation. “Now the ongoing loadshedding is not limited to Punjab alone, as it is being observed by the Discos of other provinces too,” he said.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for Lesco said the company had started loadshedding in all those areas falling under service jurisdiction of all categories (1 to 5) of high loss feeders.

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