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Power regulator begins probe

Who is responsible for the incessant reign of power cuts in Delhi and how can they be punished? Are the private electricity distributors selling Delhi’s share of power to other states for extra profit while keeping Delhiites power-starved, reports Avishek G Dastidar.

delhi Updated: Jul 22, 2009 00:21 IST
Avishek G Dastidar

Who is responsible for the incessant reign of power cuts in Delhi and how can they be punished?

Are the private electricity distributors (distcoms) selling Delhi’s share of power to other states for extra profit while keeping Delhiites power-starved?

To find answers to some of these questions, Delhi power regulator, Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission (DERC), has launched a probe this week and dug deep into the accounts of the distcoms — Tata-backed North Delhi Power Limited (NDPL) and Reliance’s BSES.

The top officials of both the distcoms along with officials of Delhi State Load Dispatch Centre (the city’s power transmission utility) were present at the hearing of DERC’s probe on Monday to defend their respective cases.

It emerged at the hearing that between June 15-30, when Delhiites were facing power cuts for eight to 10 hours — mainly in areas serviced by BSES for want of power — NDPL sold its surplus power to other states instead of giving it to BSES, only because the distcoms failed to strike a deal in bargaining.

As per a DERC ruling, if any distcom has surplus power, it has to sell that to other

distcoms, which need the power, so that Delhiites can benefit from it.

“We have launched the inquiry to get to the bottom of this matter. At the end of the probe, the commission may issue directives to distcoms so that power crisis like the one Delhi suffered does not arise again,” said DERC secretary AK Tewary.

Sources said right now hogging the hearing is the issue of 87 million units of power that NDPL owes BSES.

And BSES on the other hand has claimed that only 8 million units has been made available to it so far.

One million units can light up roughly 2,000 middle class homes in Delhi for at least a month.

“At the time of the crisis in June, NDPL had some surplus power which we had asked for, but they quoted rates like Rs 15 to Rs 16 per unit, which is prohibitively expensive and not in letter and spirit of the power-sharing norms between distcoms,” said a senior BSES official, who did not wish to be named since he is not authorised to speak to the media.

While NDPL officials could not reveal either the price band or the quantum of the surplus power it had offered its Reliance counterparts, its spokesperson claimed that during the “crisis period” it had sold power to other states without causing load shedding in Delhi.

“We had got the approval from the slate load dispatch centre for selling extra power elsewhere, as is the law,” said an NDPL spokesman.

Amid such hairsplitting arguments, the inquiry is far from over.

Sources said the regulatory commission has also sought daily bidding report from the two power exchanges — where electricity is sold online through real-time bidding between buyers and seller — to see if at all or even how much Delhi distcoms had bid for extra power at the time of the crisis.

It might take another 10 days to reach a verdict.