In a paradoxical scenario, Punjab is passing through a power-surplus phase, but different sections of consumers are still facing power cuts. The Punjab State Electricity Regulatory Commission (PSERC) has decided to seek an explanation from the Punjab State Power Corporation Limited (PSPCL) on this matter in its power tariff order for the current financial year (2015-16), expected by next week.
Hinting at a ‘conservative’ power tariff this time, the PSERC top brass has also decided to suggest a roadmap to ensure optimum consumption of power by various sections.
“We are getting reports that long-duration power cuts are being imposed. So, what is the use of adding generation capacity and building new thermal plants and still not giving power to consumers?” asked a high-level functionary of the PSERC.
As many as 10 of the 14 units of the three state-owned thermal power plants – located in Bathinda, Rupnagar and Lehra Mohabbat (Bathinda) -- are shut. These plants are generating just 30% of their total capacity.
The privately-owned thermal plants in Rajpura and Talwandi Sabo are also running at half the capacity.
The PSERC is of the view that when there is no round-the-clock availability of power, why whopping fixed charges are being passed on to consumers. In the previous financial year (2014-15), fixed charges of Rs 1,706 crore, which amount to Rs 4.66 crore every day, were imposed on the consumers.
No two-part tariff
The PSERC had alerted the PSPCL to come up with “concrete proposals” to deal with surplus power in its annual revenue requirement (ARR) for 2014-15. The regulator had suggested reduction of power rates for high-end consumers and implementation of dynamic tariff (time-of-day tariff) to compete with power exchange rates and increased power consumption from upcoming thermal stations. But the regulator did not impose the two-part tariff, which means the more you consume, the less you pay and vice-versa. “Though the two-part tariff leads to higher consumption, there is opposition from sections of consumers as it would harm the interests of low-consumption users,” said a source in the PSERC.
Delay in subsidy commitment
The delay in pronouncement of power tariff is attributed to the delay in the state government’s commitment for free power to the agriculture sector and other sections of consumers. A sum of Rs 5,484 crore has been committed for free power in the budget, but the PSERC is yet to get clearance from the government.
55% hike demanded
The PSPCL has shown a revenue gap of Rs 14,000 crore for the financial year 2015-16, which amounts to a tariff hike of about 55%. “These are not practical figures but just exaggeration of facts. The hike is going to be negligible,” said a PSERC source. In the previous financial year (2014-15), the hike was 2.74%; it was about 9% in 2013-14.