The Punjab State Power Corporation Limited (PSPCL or Powercom) and the Punjab State Electricity Regulatory Commission (PSERC) are at logger-heads over open-access consumers.
In the last week of March, the PSPCL had started sending notices to about 350 industrial houses with power load of 1 megawatt (MW) or above, stating that in the absence of any bilateral agreement, drawing of power from the PSPCL's distribution and transmission system would be considered illegal with effect from May 1.
The PSPCL said it was acting on the advisory issued by the union power ministry in November 2011, as per which it has no "universal service obligation" to compulsorily supply power to such consumers. In case open-access consumers want power from the PSPCL, they have to sign an agreement and also intimate requirements a month in advance.
The PSERC, in a communiqué sent to the Punjab power secretary two days after the PSPCL started sending notices to consumers, has suggested not taking any action on the advisory.
The PSERC has quoted a judgment of the appellate tribunal on electricity, saying that there is no provision that stipulates that an existing consumer of the PSPCL who seeks open access shall cease to be a consumer.
The commission also said that the advisory is against provisions of the Electricity Act, 2003.
The PSPCL chairman-cum-managing director KD Chaudhari wrote to the power secretary, refusing to go by the regulatory commission's directive and stating that the PSPCL had started steps to implement the advisory.
The advisory says, "… the opinion of union ministry of law and justice in consultation with the attorney general of India, all concerned may note that all 1 MW or above consumers are deemed to be open-access consumers and the regulatory has no jurisdiction over fixing energy charges for them. It is requested that necessary steps be taken for immediately implementing provisions relating to open access".
"… The PSERC has informed that the said opinion of the ministry of law and justice was discussed by the forum of regulators and it held that the opinion rendered is of advisory nature and not binding on state electricity commissions or power utilities in the state. The PSERC has further advised the PSPCL not to take any action on the matter. However, the PSPCL considers that the directives of the union power ministry are to be complied with and so is not stalling its implementation," Chaudhari told the power secretary in his reply.
The consumers who got notices from the PSPCL account for 30% of the total power consumption of the state. As per the advisory, the PSERC has no right to fix tariff of these consumers. Open-access consumers would have to sign individual agreements, which would also involve fixing of the power tariff.
The move is said to be prone to manipulation as the tariff would be negotiated differently with various open-access consumers, even as the PSPCL claims that drawing power through open access causes fluctuations of up to 1,500 MW, making their operations unviable.
As per reports, some industrial houses have moved the PSERC, seeking respite from the PSPCL notices.