Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Power Rates Increased Under IMF Agreement


By Khaleeq Kiani
ISLAMABAD, Dec 26: Under an agreement with the International Monetary Fund, the government on Friday increased power tariff by imposing 60 paisa per unit ‘equalization surcharge’ – third in as many months – on electricity rates for all distribution companies (except K-Electric) with immediate effect.

As a consequence, the existing notified tariff at Rs11.82 per unit has been increased to Rs12.43 per unit. In addition, this will have a further impact of 10 paisa per unit when charged to consumers with general sales tax.

“The federal government is pleased to notify the equalization surcharge at the rate of Rs0.60/KWh, applicable to all the consumer categories except lifeline consumers on per unit consumption in respect of ex-Wapda Distribution Companies”, said an official notification not made public.

On October 3, the government had imposed an equalization surcharge of 30 paisa per unit, followed by Rs1.50 per unit on November 3 to cover interest payments to Independent Power Producers for delayed payment by the government or its power companies.

The National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra) had been rejecting the government request for inclusion of these costs and system losses into the power tariff. Therefore, the government decided to impose surcharges under IMF compulsion.

The latest notification said the “ex-Wapda Disco shall deposit the amount of this surcharge in a Fund called the ‘Universal Obligation Fund’ to be kept in Escrow Account maintained at Central Power Purchasing Agency (CPPA) for exclusive use for discharging the liabilities of power producers”.

“The surcharge paid under this notification shall be considered as a cost incurred by a distribution company to be included in the tariff of that company as determined by National Electric Power Regulatory Authority and notified by Federal Government in the Official Gazette”, the notification went on.

Under a written agreement with the IMF early this month, finance minister had committed “to continue to use the downward trend to make further adjustments in the surcharge to close any gap (about 5 per cent) to stay within the FY2014-15 budgeted electricity subsidy of 0.7 per cent of GDP”.

As promised, the government took benefit of fuel price reduction of Rs2.97 per unit approved by the Nepra on December 19, for one month to be passed to consumers in billing month of January 2015.

Interestingly, the Nepra-approved reduction in fuel cost would automatically come to an end after one month but the equalization surcharge would remain part of the base tariff for all times to come unless power system losses were brought down to less than 10 per cent from about 19 per cent at present.

When contacted, a power ministry spokesperson declined to respond to specific questions but tried to cover it up with a vague written version. The spokesperson sadi the “NEPRA authorities have determined and notified Fuel Adjustment Charges of Rs.2.9672/unit out of which Rs2.3672/unit will be passed on to all the consumers. An amount of Re. 0.60/unit was required to pay for the power sector finances and notified as surcharge separately. The net effect to end-consumer is no increase in the rates and net reduction of Rs2.3672/unit."

On November 3 when it was holding talks with the IMF, the government had imposed another equalisation surcharge at an average rate of Rs1.5 per unit on consumers of all electricity distribution companies with retrospective effect from October 1 that would remain in force until December 31, 2015 to enable revival of $6.78 billion bailout package suspended in August.

Withdrawal of power and gas subsidies is one of the key themes of the IMF package.

Exactly a month ago on October 3, the government had imposed a 30 paisa per unit surcharge on electricity consumers.

Under the Nepra law, the government should have reduced consumer tariff by Rs1.5 per unit in April this year but it has been delaying passing on the benefit to consumers.

Nepra had completed the tariff determination process for nine Discos in February and March this year based on revenue requirements and efficiency standards for the 2013-14 financial year by reducing prevailing tariff by Rs1.5 per unit.

A ministry official said the government and its Discos had been fighting a legal battle for almost eight months to prevail upon Nepra to provide relief to distribution companies, but had to exercise its “sovereign powers to impose surcharges” on refusal by the regulator to entertain requests for lenient efficiency standards. (Ends)

Monday, April 18, 2011

Simona Drevensek: biofel production from algae on the rise

Approximately 17% of the oil imported into the U.S. for cars, trucks and buses could be replaced by algal fuel by 2020, according to a study by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

Still, biofuel demand, due to rising oil prices and federal and state policies, will grow, and algae remains one of the more promising feedstocks.

"Algae has been a hot topic of biofuel discussions recently, but until now, no one has taken such a detailed look at how much America could make and how much water and land it would require," said Mark Wigmosta, lead author of the study and a PNNL hydrologist. "This research provides the groundwork and initial estimates needed to better inform renewable-energy decisions."

Simona Drevensek: one of the largest solar panel makers makes panels cheaper

Trina Solar will begin to sell modules in the U.S., Australia and Europe that are grooved to accommodate the low-cost racking system invented by Zep Solar -- one more tiny step in reducing the cost of solar.

Simona Drevensek: Biofuels, rising food prices and the lowest stocks of of food in decades in

In 2008, many economists were surprised by the rising prices of maize, rice, wheat and petroleum, all of which tripled in real terms. Prices came down, but ever since, it’s been a rocky road.

Blame part of it on an increase in demand and natural disasters. Floods in Australia, drought in Argentina, fires in Russia, and frost damage in the U.S. and Europe contributed to the spike in food prices in December 2010, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). These events resulted in export bans and short-term speculation, causing riots and political instability in more than 30 countries worldwide.

But part of the problem derives from ethanol production. In the U.S., 40% of corn production from food and feed is used for ethanol fuel production, putting stress on corn supplies in a year when stocks are at the lowest level in decades. People living in the 52 high-risk countries -- 750 million of them already malnourished -- rely on 83 billion tons of imported food a year, much of it corn, soybeans and wheat exported by the United States.

Simona Drevensek: Sprint delivers 4th green cell phone

Sprint has long been an innovation leader. It introduced the first fiber-optic cable and 4G network to the U.S. as well as eco-friendly cell phones. Cell phones are central to American youth -- 58% of 12-year-olds and 83% of 17-year-olds own mobile phones. Smart phones are replacing calculators, cameras, camcorders and books.

But most cell phones are made from toxic materials. Millions of used phones are causing environmental concern, as only 10% are recycled in the U.S. annually. It is estimated that 140 million end up in landfills, accounting for 65,000 tons of waste material. How could we tackle the problem? With green phones, says Sprint.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Simona Drevensek: extracting oil with solar energy

The Fremont, California-based company has created a one-acre greenhouse filled with solar-energy collectors to create low-cost steam for an oil field. More, ideally, will follow.

The project is expected to reduce the costs of producing steam, which will lower the price of oil and ensure jobs. “This is the first solar EOR (enhanced oil recovery) facility in the world and it was built without government money. Because all the easy oil has already been extracted, this is where the next generation [of oil recovery] takes off,” said U.S. Representative Kevin McCarthy, congressman for California’s 22nd congressional district, adding that this could also expand local employment.

It could also recreate jobs, but how many and how you count them is up for debate.

"Each acre of solar field generates five jobs -- most of the elements needed were manufactured locally. Creating systems just for 20% of EOR energy would generate 25,000 jobs here," said MacGregor.

Simona Drevensek: Mobile App PlugShare prevents ‘range anxiety’

Many electric-car lovers hesitate when deciding to purchase an electric vehicle. The main reason: lack of public charging stations and the fear of running out of battery charge on the road. A new mobile app, PlugShare, could change that. An app for iPhone and iPod Touch released by Xatori Inc., an electric-vehicle software company, lets U.S. users share outlets with EV drivers. The idea is to create a social network similar to where people can share plugs with EV owners wanting to charge up anywhere they can get electricity.

The costs for electricity from a normal outlet are only about 15 cents an hour. “If you let someone charge for the afternoon it might cost 45 or 70 cents, a pretty small amount compared to the price of oil,” explained North, adding that the most likely users will be “people who want the EV revolution to happen”.

With PlugShare—a community-driven, EV (electric-vehicle) charging network—anyone can contribute to boosting electric-car use.