Headline: Election-related ‘power’ play?


Subhed: No hike for consumers, industrial rates cut

Photo 1: Chart outlining the old and new rates.

Photo 2: inaugurating a solar power project in Punjab . . . industrial users get a break.

Chandigarh: Power consumers in poll-bound Punjab have been spared from a hike in tariff by the power regulator, which also slashed the rates for industrial users.

The Punjab State Electricity Regulatory Commission (PSERC) has decided to abolish peak load hour restrictions and surcharge and offer rebate to existing large industrial consumers for consumption beyond the threshold limit. This is aimed at boosting production and generating employment.

There is no change in power tariff for domestic, non-residential and bulk power consumers. But the industrial consumers — small, medium and large units — have got rebate in power tariff, from 38 paise to 11 paise per unit.

The Deputy CM also announced power tariff for small-scale industry at Rs 4.99 per unit, which is on a par with the rate being charged from new industrial  investors. This will benefit 98,000 existing units.

In an effort to woo industry ahead of the Assembly poll, peak load hour restrictions have been done away with from August 1, when the tariff order for 2016-17 comes into force.

The rebate on consuming power beyond the threshold limit — more than the maximum annual consumption during the last two financial years — and re-introduction of time of day tariff (lower rates if power is consumed at off peak load hours) for industry have been announced too.

But the open access policy (wherein industry can buy power from sources other than the state power utility) has become more costly, with the government increasing transmission and wheeling charges from Rs 1.4 per unit to Rs 1.55 per unit.

PSERC chairman DS Bains denied there had been political considerations behind the reduction in tariff announced by the commission. He said with Punjab having surplus power, rebate had been given to boost power demand and optimise the use of 18,123.83 million units of surplus power.

Agriculture consumers too get more relief as subsidy for pump sets is now up from Rs 4,709.91 crore to Rs 5,196.77 crore for this fiscal year. For dairy farming, fish farming, goat and sheep rearing,  a subsidy of Rs 70 lakh has been announced while the Scheduled Castes and below poverty line consumers will get 200 units of free power every month.

This bill has swelled from Rs 5,364.77 crore in 2015-16 to Rs 6,364.49 crore now. It is another matter that PSPCL has yet to receive from the government Rs 1,233 crore owing to subsidies during 2015-16 and another Rs 600 crore as bills from various government departments.

Despite the lower industrial power rates and increase in the subsidy bill, the state power utilities will be showing a surplus of Rs 165.94 crore.

30 – photo 1 – power