The National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra) on Friday decided to initiate legal proceedings against the Karachi-based integrated power utility and sought an explanation within 14 days while releasing key findings of the investigation report to the media.
Under the Nepra rules, the legal proceedings involving explanation, written reply and personal hearing for defence should conclude in about 60 days. They may lead to imposition of up to Rs100 million fine and up to Rs500,000 per day of additional penalty for continuous breach of licence conditions, etc. The regulator can appoint an administrator or impose a maximum penalty of terminating the licence, though it’s a rare possibility.
Says weak distribution system is one reason behind unscheduled load-shedding
When contacted, KE spokesperson Taha Siddiqi said the utility had come to know about the regulator’s move through the media and would respond in writing. “K-Electric has not received any such notification or report from the regulator,” he wrote later.
Nepra conducted the investigation on the orders of the Sindh High Court.
The power regulator said its team visited different areas of K-Electric, conducted survey of consumers and inspected record and log books of 132-kilovolt grid stations, and ascertained that contrary to the stated claims by the officials at the top, the consumers are being subjected to prolonged unscheduled electricity outages of more than 16 hours in many areas.
The team also concluded that weak and fragile distribution system was also one reason of unscheduled load-shedding, and as a result consumers were suffering due to voltage fluctuations.
The regulator noted that KE’s generation resources — including its own power plants, outside generation sources such as independent power producers and import from the National Transmission and Despatch Company Ltd — were barely adequate to meet the demand of KE.
Its own fleet included six units at Bin Qasim-1 which “due to their age were more prone to faults and tripping”. The gas availability and the gas pressure had been noted to affect the overall generation contribution. Korangi Town Gas Turbine Power Station (KGTPS) and Site Gas Turbine Power Stations (SGTPS) have particularly been forced to operate lower than their available capacities due to low gas pressure.
The Nepra investigation team expected the adequacy of generation to improve by 2018 as KE has planned to add new generation power plant of 450 megawatts based on regasified liquefied natural gas.
“Based on the findings, a detailed report was filed by the team, wherein, the finding pertaining to longer power cuts other than scheduled load-shedding was prominent on which the authority while showing serious concerns, decided to initiate legal proceedings,” Nepra said.
The report said the KE system experienced frequent breakdowns and extended load-shedding in May. The media also reported that the prolonged hours of load-shedding continued in Karachi during Ramazan too.
Moreover, the Sindh High Court in its decision on May 29 directed Nepra to ensure that the KE authorities comply with the instructions issued on March 25, 2016.
The court ruled that the Nepra authorities would be at liberty to take appropriate action under the law against K-Electric in case of non-compliance.
In compliance of the court orders and in light of the media reports of prolonged outages, Nepra decided to verify the implementation status of its directions. The directions entailed provision of electricity to all consumers without any discrimination who meet consumer eligibility criteria and were neither defaulters or involved in power theft.
Those instructions also required the KE to provide accurate and timely information to Nepra and increase the generation capacity and improve the transmission and distribution system in accordance with the investment plans submitted to the regulator within approved timelines and file quarterly progress reports.