Millennium Post

As power turns disempowering

It seems the brunt of collective failure within the power sector would be borne by hapless aam aadmi of the national capital once again. Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission (DERC)’s decision to levy a fuel surcharge so that private discoms can ‘adjust’ their power purchase cost from generation companies, chiefly the government-owned NTPC, is a highly suspicious move that should have been discussed before. Not only had the electricity tariff for domestic consumption been raised up to 7.5 per cent as close as in July this year, it now appears that the decision to withdraw power purchase adjustment cost (PPAC) was only to hoodwink the public for a while.

The ‘re-adjustment’ of tariffs, therefore, comes as little surprise since DERC has been serving the private retail companies and not the denizens of Delhi for a long time now. In fact, the astronomically high electricity charges notwithstanding, it was the regulator’s decision to introduce PPAC in 2012 to help power distribution companies recover additional cost on account of increase in coal and gas prices. This, despite the fact that these private discoms have been serial defaulters, particularly the BSES companies, and have not paid their dues to the tune of hundreds of crores to the state-owned generation companies.

The question that must be asked at this point is this: why hasn’t the CAG audit of the private discoms been completed yet? Unless the audit is in place, isn’t it absolutely unethical to introduce additional charges in lieu of fuel costs incurred by the retail companies, when it has been established that fuels such as coal and gas are often obtained cheaply on the sly.  Without the CAG audit, the jury is still out on what exactly is the break-up of the costs incurred and how much the private discoms have extracted as profits in their underhand deals. Only then the margin of actual increase in power purchase cost be ascertained.

But it is obvious that DERC doesn’t want to wait until the audit comes out. In fact, there have been several reports that the discoms have not been cooperating with the CAG and trying to stonewall the audit process from taking place. Unless they have something to hide, there must not be any reason for the discoms to create hurdles before the CAG on the one hand and push for tariff hikes through backchannel negotiations without thinking twice about the customers themselves. The lieutenant governor of Delhi should urgently intervene, given the situation, and safeguard the interests of Delhiites.    

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