The Pakistan Electric Power Company (PEPCO) has set up a task force to prevent power theft and speed up the processes involved in bringing power services back online during an outage. According to PEPCO’s Tahir Basharat Cheema most power outages in Pakistan can be blamed on overloads caused by locals pilfering from the system.
The task force will target meter tampering first and work to make the utility company operate more efficiently. PEPCO plans to install smart meters that will help them reach their goals.
“The first target is to control meter tampering, explore avenues to generate more revenue and promote operational efficiency,” explained Cheema.
Power theft is a rampant problem in Pakistan. “Recovery from the private sector consumers was 100 percent of current bills in the last month and we expect it to be 115 percent in May,” explained Cheema, adding that the recovery target for June is 120 percent.
Pakistan power rates have been subsidized for many years. The country is currently working towards lifting those subsidies. In order to do so PEPCO must raise its tariffs to cover revenue losses that will come about without the subsidies in place.
Together with the Ministry of Water and Power, PEPCO is seeking a PKR130 billion loan from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to clear its debt problems. “The government has approached the ADB for support to clear the circular debt issues once and set the power sector on path of growth,” said Tahir Basharat Cheema
However, before the soft loan can be secured, PEPCO must prove that it, along with the regional distribution companies (DISCOs) are working towards improving efficiency.
“Before any decision is finalised ADB wants proof that PEPCO and the distribution companies (DISCOs) were working to improve their efficiency,” said a PEPCO official.
PEPCO stands to regain significant revenue by taking a tough stand against power theft. The utility is working closely with the eight DISCOs in the effort.
The task force has targeted specific areas with high theft rates. Modern advances including smart meters and other monitoring equipment will be installed. Special aerial bundle cables will connect to pole mounted transformers and a smart meter to prevent theft.
The smart meters will be equipped with an automatic reporting capability should any tampering be detected. Should any bypasses to the smart meters be attempted, power will be automatically cut off.
“These measures have been successful to control electricity pilfering at the international level,” said Cheema. He said the costs associated with installing the equipment would be much less than the losses currently generated by power theft.
In three DISCOs power losses average about 30 percent of the total produced. Cheema said it will take time to make significant improvements in these areas.
Meanwhile, the power supply has remained relatively stable. No planned power outages were scheduled for the next 24 hours. Still, the total amount of power generated on May 27 was 2,112 megawatts below the total demand of 14,196 megawatts.
Low water levels were largely blamed on recent power generation shortfalls. Pakistan depends heavily on hydroelectric power. Planned power shutdowns were lasting 8 hours in urban areas and 10 hours outside the cities. Cooler weather is decreasing demand on the overtaxed system.