Amid privatisation murmurs, PwC begins study of power distribution in UP
Amid renewed talks of possible privatisation of the power sector in Uttar Pradesh, Central government’s policy think tank Niti Aayog has started a primary study of power distribution system of the state through professional services firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).
PwC officials are visiting the identified sub-stations in the state to conduct surveys and interview consumers to assess the state of electricity access and understanding customers’ perception of and satisfaction with power supply scenario.
The UP Power Corporation Ltd (UPPCL) management is said to have written to its field engineers asking them to coordinate and cooperate with PwC teams in the conduct of their on-field encounters with consumers as well as the staff of discoms.
UPPCL chief engineer (DSM), Varalika Dubey recently faxed a letter to the chief engineer, Agra requesting him to facilitate the PwC team’s visit to Bichpuri sub-station. HT has a copy of the letter dated June 10.
“This is to bring to your knowledge that the Niti Aayog has engaged PwC for the study of distribution system in UP. Accordingly, a team of PwC shall visit Bichpuri Bijli Ghar (sub-station) in EDDD Kamlanagar, Agra. You are, therefore, requested to direct the officials concerned to meet the team of the PwC tomorrow, that is, 11-6-2019,” the letter said.
Officials familiar with the development said similar letters were being dispatched to other officials in all the discoms leading to apprehensions that the move for privatisation of power distribution system has begun yet again.
“If PwC is conducting any such customer satisfaction survey in UP at the behest of Niti Aayog, then we are sure that the objective is to privatise the state’s power distribution system,” chairman of All-India Power Engineers Federation (AIPEF) Shailendra Dubey claimed.
“The government should stay away from any such misadventure,” he added.
Talks of privatisation have been doing the rounds since the Niti Aayog’s document titled ‘Strategy for New India @ 75’ came in public domain a few months ago. The document studies the ills in various sectors and shows the way forward by suggesting certain measures.
“Privatising state distribution utilities and/or the use of a franchisee model will reduce the AT&C losses,” recommended the document released in November last year.
“The language of Niti Aayog’s strategy paper, which is a serious document, speaks volumes of the central government’s prescription for the country’s power sector,” Dubey said.
According to sources, PwC has been assigned surveys of power distribution system in Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Gujarat, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and West Bengal.
The proposed Electricity Bill (Amendment) Act that sought to effect crucial changes in the country’s power sector also provided for the entry of private players in power distribution business to offer choices to consumers.
The Bill, to which comments have been invited from stakeholders, seeks to segregate the carriage (distribution network) from the content (electricity supply business) in the power sector by introducing multiple licencees in the content segment based on market principles and continuing with the carriage segment (distribution network) as a regulated activity.
Introduction of this model will mean that while there may be many private players vying with each other to sell power to consumers, discoms will merely realise charges from consumers/distributors for allowing their distribution network for wheeling electricity from the sub-station to the consumer’s premises.
“We have already given a notice to the central government warning it that the country’s power engineers and employees will proceed on strike the moment the controversial bill is introduced in the parliament without addressing our concerns,” Dubey said.