Islamabad: The government of Pakistan is taking decisive steps to ensure a stable and affordable electricity supply during the winter months through its “winter package” initiative. This four-month plan is not just about providing cheap electricity; it’s about supporting industries and easing the financial strain on power plants. However, it’s important to note that its implementation hinges on approval from the federal cabinet and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
The estimated cost of this initiative is approximately Rs 25 billion, but the real challenge lies in figuring out how to distribute this cost. International financial organizations like the IMF and the World Bank have placed restrictions on subsidizing such initiatives, adding complexity to the funding process.
To address this issue and ensure fairness, various government divisions, including Power, Finance, Commerce, and the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR), are collaborating to design industrial tariffs based on the actual cost of service. This move is aimed at tackling cross-subsidy problems for domestic users, which have been negatively impacting the competitiveness of Pakistan’s exports. Furthermore, the government is taking additional measures to cut electricity costs, such as implementing wheeling at a cost of just one cent per unit and establishing a committee to handle capacity charges and debt restructuring in the power sector.
The next crucial step in this journey is an upcoming meeting in the Power Division, where the specifics of the proposed winter package will be discussed. This includes determining the rates and duration of the package before it is officially presented to the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the Cabinet for approval. This meticulous planning demonstrates the government’s commitment to ensuring the success of this initiative, which aims to benefit all stakeholders.
Industry experts have suggested expanding the scope of the winter package to include domestic consumers. This would allow households to use electricity for heating purposes, especially in regions where gas availability is limited during the winter months. Such an expansion would not only support industries but also provide relief to ordinary citizens during colder seasons.
The government’s dedication to providing affordable electricity has yielded positive results in the past. In 2020, a discount on incremental consumption, known as the “Use more Pay Less Package,” led to a remarkable 16% growth in electricity consumption across domestic, commercial, and industrial sectors.
Looking ahead, the Power Division anticipates substantial growth in electricity consumption for both distribution companies (Discos) and K-Electric, projecting over 25% growth for Discos and over 35% for K-Electric in 2023-24. This optimistic outlook is based on the positive impact of previous industrial support packages and the potential for further growth in the sector.
One crucial aspect of the “winter package” is its sustainability. The Power Division has confirmed that there is a sufficient power balance available during the winter months to support this initiative. This additional electricity is being generated and will be consumed during the four winter months, ensuring that there is no negative impact on the fiscal balance.
Karachi Electric, a major player in the region, has also expressed confidence that there will be no load management issues within its system due to the implementation of the industrial package.
In a related development, the All Pakistan Textile Mills (APTMA) Punjab is urging the government to allocate the electricity generated from the RLNG-fired Balloki power plant exclusively to them or consider selling the plant to APTMA. However, addressing a cross-subsidy of Rs 7 per unit remains a challenge, and finding solutions to cover shortfalls if the plant is sold to APTMA is a complex issue that requires careful consideration.
In conclusion, Pakistan’s “winter package” initiative is not just about providing cheap electricity; it’s about empowering industries and ensuring an affordable, reliable electricity supply during the winter months. With meticulous planning, collaboration among government divisions, and a focus on sustainability, this initiative has the potential to stimulate industrial growth and improve the overall energy landscape in the country. As the government works to address the challenges posed by international financial organizations, it remains dedicated to providing cost-effective solutions that benefit both industries and citizens alike.