The state government and the Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission (MERC) are at loggerheads over the rising power tariff.
Deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar, who also heads energy department, on Wednesday told the Legislative Assembly that ‘an adamant’ MERC had been favouring city’s private power companies. “MERC behaves as if it is beyond everything,” Pawar said.
Pawar also assured that the state would amend the Electricity Act, 2003, so that the regulator, especially its chairman VP Raja, could be controlled. “If we are unable to do so, we will seek Union power minister Sushilkumar Shinde’s help.”
Pawar was responding to a calling attention suggestion moved by Shiv Sena leader Subhash Desai and his party colleagues, Ravindra Waikar, Vinod Ghosalkar and Prakash Sawant, who alleged that the MERC was consistently biased in issuing orders to private companies in the city.
MERC’s role is significant in state’s power sector because it determines tariff and regulates business of all utilities in the state.
Launching a scathing attack on MERC chairman, Desai said: “MERC directed Reliance Infrastructure to buy expensive power from Wardha Power Company even when the Mumbai company was getting power at much cheaper rates from other sources. The extra cost would be passed on to the city’s 27 lakh consumers for no fault of theirs.”
The Hindustan Times had reported the issue last week explaining how MERC’s directive would inflate power bills in suburbs. In the same report, HT had also reported that the electricity commission’s accounting errors had increased the bills of eastern suburbs and rest of Maharashtra. Similar goof-ups by the commission had impacted energy spend of eastern suburbs and rest of Maharashtra by Rs1,200 crore last year.
Demand for uniform tariff in the city was also raised, following which Pawar said that MERC was in the process of determining uniform rates. “MERC has got a consultant’s report. The chief minister, deputy chief minister and MERC chairman will meet soon to take a call on this.”
In a separate debate, Bharatiya Janata Party’s Devendra Fadnavis suggested that the government could invoke clause 108 of the Electricity Act to direct MERC to implement uniform tariff in Mumbai.
Meanwhile, MERC chairman VP Raja said that the commission had been following the Electricity Act to take all decisions. “I respect the minister’s statements. I think there is a communication gap between the commission and the state. We can resolve the issue, if any, amicably.”