After catching the Punjab State Power Corporation Limited (PSPCL) on the wrong foot over claims of 'lowest' transmission and distribution (T&D) losses, the Punjab State Electricity Regulatory Commission (PSERC) has taken a tough stand to determine agricultural power supplied and actual losses incurred on agricultural feeders.
The PSPCL claimed to have attained lowest T&D losses across the country at less than 17% by passing off 2.83% losses as agricultural consumption, thus claiming an additional agricultural subsidy of Rs 814 crore in 2010-13 and Rs 400 crore in 2013-14, the PSERC pointed out.
In a communiqué sent to the PSPCL, the PSERC has issued directions to install meters on 11.5 lakh tubewells in the state so as to fulfil conditions laid down in Section 55 of the Electricity Act, 2003.
The PSPCL has segregated agricultural feeders and installed an automatic meter system on each feeder at the substation end, but it has fallen well short of implementing the provision which says that every consumer has to be metered within two years of the Act's inception in 2003.
As there are no meters on agricultural pumpsets (AP), it is not possible to assess actual losses on agricultural feeders. Thus, the PSPCL 'mixes' figures of agricultural consumption by levying more losses on AP feeders and claim higher subsidy from the state government, besides getting credit for bringing down T&D losses.
The PSERC had laid down that 10% of the agricultural feeders were to be covered during 2013-14 and 30% thereafter. AP feeders are to be covered each year so as to complete the project by 2016-17. The PSERC chairperson, Romila Dubey, said this first-of-its-kind project in the country would revolutionise the power sector. "The PSERC would not allow the PSPCL to mix agricultural consumption with T&D losses," she added.
A senior PSPCL officer, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said power utilities in India, including the PSPCL, were fudging figures of T&D losses and agricultural consumption to avail higher subsidy from respective state governments.
'Can't implement order'
After directions from the PSERC to implement 100% metering on agricultural pumpsets, PSPCL directors held a meeting recently and decided that such a move was not economically viable.
The PSPCL told the PSERC that the cost of reading each tubewell meter was likely to be Rs 150 per month and a contract for 10 years shall have to be awarded to a private company. "For reading 11.5 lakh meters, the estimated cost is Rs 200 crore annually, which is not viable economically," observed PSPCL's whole-time members.
The PSERC has told the PSPCL that it cannot overrule provisions of the Electricity Act as well as directions of the commission given in its tariff orders. The commission has suggested that the PSPCL can approach the commission or the Appellate Tribunal of Electricity for a review on the matter.