Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Provincial governments demand transparency in Electrical pricing

Yesterdays newspapers reported that provincial governments have expressed dissatisfaction over fuel charges being levied by the electricity system , which they call non-transparent.Ministry of finance Has reportedly demanded from NEPRA to require audit of fuel purchased and consumed by the generation companies.This writer earlier had also misgivings on fuel adjustment charges levied by the utilities.Earlier NEPRA used to reveal fuel charges in one line statement issued monthly.Lately NEPRA has started publishing some details in this respect.Perhaps more is required towards this end,and detailed tabulation in this respect may satisfy the concerns and skepticism of the stakeholders.

On a larger plane Government has taken an institutional step to bring more order into the electrical system by organizing CPPA-Central Power Purchasing Authority.Readers may know that CPPA 's function is to purchase electricity from various generating companies like IPPs,WAPDA,GENCOs etc at formula previously determined by NEPRA.NEPRA,however,determines reference unit fuel charges and annual fixed charges under a cost-plus system.Actual prices paid by CPPA are ,however, according to a price escalation formula reflecting the changes in fuel prices.Meters have been installed at the required points to record electricity received.I am sure there is audit for all such payments,which although doesnot enjoy confidence of the governments themselves and other stakeholders.Hence the demand for transparency and publishing details on the net ,if not,by CPPA ,then by NEPRA.

Organizing CPPA as a company(under government guarantee) is expected to bring normalcy and the required transparency.Currently,the authority seems to have the status of a cell under NTDC.Company laws would require CPPA to make the required declarations.Advertisements have appeared in the newspaper for induction of a chief executive of CPPA.It is hoped that a candidate is found in time who meets all the requirements.

The criticism regarding fuel charge variations partly stems from lack of knowledge .It is perfectly all right that different generators would consume different quantities of fuel to produce same quantity of electricity,as there are differences in vintage,capital cost,technology etc.However there may be issues when the same producer charges for varying quantities of fuel for the same quantities of electricity.There may be variations of fuel mix,load factor.number of starts and offs etc that may cause variations.Hence that may require discretion on the part of buyer and seller.And hence the scope for abuse.Some measures towards declaring and transparency towards this aspect may satisfy the related skepticism from various quarters. However it may be only fair to also acknowledge that NEPRA publishes relatively much more data and info than other bodies like OGRA-Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority.

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