The Punjab State Power Corporation Limited (PSPCL), a state-owned power generation and distribution company, has been reluctant to undertake metering of energy supply to consumers in the agriculture sector, but it may not be able to avoid it for long.
The Appellate Tribunal for Electricity (APTEL), which adjudicates disputes in the power sector, has directed the Punjab State Electricity Regulatory Commission (PSERC) to ensure total metering of agricultural pump sets of consumers by the distribution company.
The tribunal has issued the directive while deciding a bunch of petitions filed by a private company and some industry associations of Punjab against the PSERC orders.
The corporation supplies power to roughly 11.50 lakh agricultural pump sets in the state, but energy meters have been installed on only a fraction of these.
While the demand for installation of meters on agricultural tubewells is getting louder to ensure transparency in computation of consumption and efficiency in energy usage, the PSPCL does not favour the installation of meters on all connections, describing the cost involved as prohibitive.
“Carrying out 100% metering of AP consumers not only involves heavy initial investment, but also recurring expenditure for monthly recording of readings. Due to geographically scattered area, the record of readings of more than 10 lakh consumers every month is a gigantic exercise,” it argued before the tribunal.
Though the corporation expressed willingness to look for cost-effective methods for metering of AP consumers and increase the size of sample metering to 10%, the tribunal was not impressed and gave the direction to the PSERC to ensure complete metering in the farm sector.
The PSPCL, which provides free power to farmers on the payment of subsidy by the state government, has installed sample meters on 9.3% tubewell connections as per the power regulator’s directive.
The PSERC had initially asked the corporation for metering of all connections, but later adopted the methodology of providing sample meters for assessing consumption in the agriculture sector.
However, consumers of other categories, especially the industry, have been pressing for meters for transparency in computation of energy consumption and to curb the misuse of free power facility in the state.
While the issue of loading of theft and pilferage of electricity on agriculture supply and claiming subsidy from the government is routinely talked about in the energy sector in various states, several industry associations in Punjab have been asking for a cap on ever-increasing agriculture consumption in the absence of metering and high cost of power purchase during the paddy season.
The Electricity Act, 2003, provides for metering of all electricity connections.