Consumers can heave a sigh of relief; their power bills will no longer deliver unpleasant surprises. Appellate Tribunal for Electricity (ATE), the panel governing all state power regulators, has directed them to take prompt decisions on uncontrollable factors like rising fuel costs that directly impact monthly power bills of consumers.
The regulators have been asked to swiftly dispose of tariff proposals submitted by power distribution companies, to ensure that accumulated costs aren't saddled on consumers in a heap. “Such adjustments would not create bigger impact on consumers since it would be a marginal amount for a shorter period. But if accumulated over a long period, such dues can impact your bills hugely,” said a regulatory expert, requesting anonymity as he works closely with state commission. “It could be a win-win situation for both, consumers and power companies,” he added.
The ATE doesn't want the state regulatory commissions to delay annual tariff determination and instead, expedite decision on past expenses. In case of any delay of over a month beyond the scheduled date of submission, the tribunal wants commissions to initiate suo-motu proceedings for tariff determination. “The state commission could consider making the tariff applicable only till the end of the financial year so that the licensees remain vigilant to follow the time schedule,” said the order.
In addition, the tribunal has clarified to the commissions that there should be no revenue gaps in tariff determination, except where justifiable. The ATE’s directives will also benefit loss-making Mahavitaran and Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST). Both companies have blamed the state regulator for not helping them much in improving their poor financial health. The country's power distribution sector faces accumulated losses of Rs75,000 crore; the figure is expected to swell to Rs1.16 lakh by 2015. Several discoms have lost their credit-worthiness and are struggling to find lenders. Others have defaulted on payments to power-generation companies.
The ATE issued these directives on November 11 after a complaint from the Union Ministry of Power that tariff revision has not taken place in many states.