We cannot blame K-Electric for the electricity crisis

Published: June 24, 2015

Despite repeated action from K-Electric – most recently seen in the form of Operation Burq – these issues continue and chip away at the resource pool, affecting the quality of service for all.

It would be an understatement to claim that the last few days have been a nightmare for the residents of Karachi. Tripped feeders, faulty transformers, broken cables, voltage fluctuations, phases missing for entire days have coupled with the scorching heat to deal a fatal blow to the metropolis.

Latest reports indicate that more than 780 people have died as a result of heat stroke, dehydration and heat-related ailments. Naturally, this has resulted in widespread anger with K-Electric. People are attacking offices and beating the staff as a means of venting their frustration over the company’s incompetency. Every listening post for the company is saturated with complaints and abuse.  While many would say that this treatment is justified, I urge that the citizens of the city to take a moment to pause from their violent outbursts and reflect upon the situation.

This year, the intense summer has coincided neatly with the month of Ramazan. Our fasts are longer, our office hours shorter. Residential consumption of electricity through use of air conditioners and other appliances automatically increases, adding more load onto the system. To a limit, supply and demand can even each other out. However, if Karachi’s demand exceeds an unprecedented threshold of 3100 megawatt against the company’s supply of 2700 megawatt, it is bound to cause a surge and affect the system.

People will dismiss this argument as rubbish, saying it is the company’s duty to fix the issues and stay ahead of the game. They are right insofar as holding K-Electric accountable, but they are wrong for not giving them a fair chance to justify themselves. Electricity theft is a common occurrence, which occurs openly in the form of tampered and bypassed meters.

A major cause of the recent breakdowns is the unsanctioned load added onto the system through these acts. Despite repeated action from K-Electric – most recently seen in the form of Operation Burq – these issues continue and chip away at the resource pool, affecting the quality of service for all.

It is understandable, even expected, for consumers to be disgruntled and reluctant to accept any explanation from K-Electric or its personnel. However, many of the complainants are experiencing issues after a prolonged period of undisturbed power. If a frequent fault is occurring in an area that is exempted from load-shedding, then it should indicate the severity of the issue, rather than use it to justify the company’s inability to cope.

In addition, the attacks on K-Electric’s premises and staff are worsening the situation. Several major repair efforts have been hindered or failed as a result of angry consumers demanding compensation for their suffering. Again, many will jump in support of the aggressors, but where is the logic in attacking the people who are coming to fix the problem? I want undisturbed power just as much as the next person, but if the threat of violence would have been effective in achieving that, the situation would not have escalated to this degree at all.

I am not saying that we do not hold the right to get angry and frustrated and demand solutions from K-Electric. What I am advocating is that we retain our composure and cooperate with the staff, and at least consider the limitations that they are working with. The best way to get through a crisis is not by panicking or destroying property, but by building a strong sense of cooperation and facilitation. Whether we choose to take the positive route or the negative one, we will be the ones to be impacted first.

You may contradict this by saying that your only concern is with the power outages, and it is the company’s job to provide it regardless of the situation. Nevertheless, fundamental gaps exist in supply and demand and will take time to bridge. K-Electric has added 1,000 megawatts to the system since its takeover in 2009, which enabled many of our areas to be exempted from load-shedding. Through a $2 billion investment in the coming years, they plan to add more. There is hope that we’ll see a future with no load-shedding at all.

While there are no words to fully capture the distress of Karachi’s citizens, I personally feel it is unfair to let the current situation colour the way we look at K-Electric. For the past year, the company has been steadily providing good quality of service to its consumers, with 60 per cent of the city exempt from load-shedding. You may not have faith in the captain of this ship, but the current onslaught needs all hands on deck to get through. Let’s find ways to constructively facilitate the efforts for everyone’s benefit and earn some brownie points for kindness in the month of Ramazan.


Ovais Munshi

The author is LUMS undergrad majoring in Biology who has previously coached an A'level debate team and is now making slow progress towards a grad school portfolio. He tweets @grumpcoach

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • sda

    interesting view point. I’m calling a ceasefire on the Jala dau 2015 campaignRecommend

  • Ali S

    Well said. KE teams were working in my middle-class area through sehri to fix faults. I’ve lived in three middle-class areas in Karachi over the past few years where people pay their bills and have seen loadshedding reduce from 3 hours a day to zero. And their customer service is always courteous and helpful. The heatwave is an extraordinary occurrence that K-Electric was admittedly unprepared for, but ask people in urban Punjab how their situation is and you’ll realize that K-Electric is actually doing a rather decent job for the most part.Recommend

  • Khan

    ‘Author is LUMS undergrad majoring in Biology’

    This just says it all, kid stay where you are and don’t write about things that you don’t know. Staying in Lahore, studying Biology and commenting about K-Electric in Karachi!!Recommend

  • Omar

    Mr Khan, find a fault in the content not in the writer’s pedigree…Recommend

  • Khan

    I agree with your view.
    Khan 2Recommend

  • shaikh mustafa

    I have scheduled power outages thrice daily with each one lasting upto two hours. It has been this way for the last 3-4 years. This is just scheduled load shedding, then there are outages due technical errors, most common of which is feeder tripping. KE has full recoveries of billing in the apartment complex i live in, there is no question of a power theft, however despite that 6-8 hours of power outage is explainable, isn’t it. Not exactly, KE says we don’t care whether we pay their bills, just because the power connection runs through an area which is notorious for power theft and manipulated meters power has to be cut everyday for upto 8 hours at least. This means that even people who are paying their bills have to bear this unjust treatment of KE.

    KE very conveniently told us that if you want to get your connection switched, pay us x amount of money and we shall do it. Now this too is our responsibility, as if paying those exorbitant bills wasn’t enough, we have to put up with power failures just because some one 25 km on either side of where we live plug power connections on other people’s meters aka kunda, Can’t KE remove those illegal connections and give us interrupted power supply instead of asking us to get our connections switched for which they will charge heavily. This operation burq is basically nothing but a huge scam, nothing may change, they might be successful in getting their hands on only a few weaklings which is good, but who will catch hold of people who have connections.Recommend

  • Ali Mirza

    And how would you explain the theft of all the copper wires from Karachi and replacement of it with Aluminium wires. As is common knowledge, Aluminium in comparison to Copper is cheaper and is relatively bad conductor of electricity. When engineers planned and put up feeders in all the areas, they calculated that based on copper wire resistance. The aluminium wire resistance is way higher than copper. Therefore the same configuration of feeders will not suffice. Instead a simple increase in load would cause the feeders to trip because of this. K Electric made billions of dollars selling that copper to China, the copper that was initially purchased by our tax money.

    Furthermore, their linemen extort neighborhoods and are responsible of putting up illegal connections themselves and in some places are in fact running their own business selling electricity at Rs. 500 per house.

    Top to bottom K Electric is corrupt and are criminals no less than PPP and MQM criminals. I may not jump the bandwagon to burn down their offices, we should have some semblance of a civilized society, but I will not sit here and have someone defend them either. They are absolutely responsible for this crisis. Even with a fan running in a room, people could have lessened the effects of the heat and survived. These deaths are murders and the accused are K Electric, Sindh govt. specifically PPP (bad governance of hospitals), MQM (PDMA is supposed to handle the disaster management of a province. It is headed by Khwaja Izhar ul Hassan the MPA of MQM) and the Federal Govt., who had the audacity to say they don’t have the mandate of Karachi. If that’s the case then stop taking Karachi’s tax money.Recommend

  • http://www.solomoncorp.com/ Ruby – Solomoncorp.com

    Yeah. Although your reasonable reasons above, it’s hard for them not to blame K-Electric. The company should’ve prepared well before this condition happen and resulting in chaos. There should be backup plan when something worse happen with the electricity supply and they can’t fulfill customer’s demandsRecommend