ISLAMABAD: According to a recent report released by PRIME, state-owned electricity distribution companies (DISCOs) have caused a cumulative loss of Rs1,355 billion over the last five years.

This includes the loss due to failure in bill recoveries (Rs495 billion), financial loss due to transmission and distribution loss (Rs195 billion), and tariff differential subsidy (Rs708 billion) over 2016-2020.

This should not be surprising given the inefficiencies with which the distribution component of the power sector is marred with.

It has a direct bearing on under-utilization of the electricity surplus capacity, which in turn has led to the ever-increasing circular debt and rising electricity tariffs.

Failure on the part of successive governments to take tough decisions has landed the country into this quagmire.

As the report shows, the performance of state-owned DISCOs remains unsatisfactory as they have not met National Electric Power Regulatory Authority’s (Nepra) targets for transmission and distribution (T&D) losses, bill recovery, investment and public safety.

The ultimate burden of the inefficiencies is put on the consumers. The higher cost of electricity and power outages has disrupted economic activities in the country, increased the operational cost of businesses, contributed to sluggish growth in gross domestic product (GDP), and led to a decline in the competitiveness of local industries.

In terms of T&D performance, DISCOs are found to be slightly in breach of Nepra targets, therefore, their five-year accumulated losses reached Rs195 billion.

To keep DISCOs operational, governments are forced to regularly pour in money to bail out the defaulting distribution firms in the form of tariff differential subsidy.

Public safety is a cardinal component of power sector efficiency, but DISCOs’ performance is lacking with total fatal accidents mounting to 680 in five years.