BEST monopoly over Mumbai's power supply may end soon

Around 10 lakh power consumers in the island city will benefit if BEST’s monopoly ends

There is some good news for people residing, and running shops & commercial complexes in the island city. It is likely that from October, the age-old monopoly of the Brihanmumbai Electricity Supply and Transport (BEST) in power supply to 10 lakh consumers might just get a boot.

Consumers may soon get an opportunity to decide their power supplier. File pic for representation
Consumers may soon get an opportunity to decide their power supplier. File pic for representation

The Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission (MERC) is likely to take a decision on the future of Tata Power’s presence in Mumbai city and suburbsby this month-end. Sources said that Tata Power has already been making presentations of its rollout plans — its plans of augmenting its presence in Mumbai — to MERC.

MERC has asked BEST and Reliance Infrastructure to present their sides and views on the future of Mumbai’s electricity demand, which presently hovers around 3,200 MW. Until now, Tata Power has created 11 clusters in bits and pieces across the suburbs and MERC wants a proper rollout plan of the company’s network for the future.

As for the island city, BEST has a ‘magic portion’, wherein it being a part of the civic authority, does not allow other power distributors to use its network under ‘open access’. There are very few such power distributors in India who can have a monopoly and until now BEST has been maintaining that it wouldn’t allow any other distributor to share its network that is said to be 18,000 km long.

Come clean, now
But what will change by this month-end is the fact that MERC has given the Undertaking the opportunity to present its views on the expansion of Tata Power. “If the BEST continues to keep its stand of disallowing other distributors under ‘open access’, then Tata Power will have to start laying a separate network and parallel lines in the island city,” said a power expert.

This would mean that consumers will soon get an opportunity to decide their power supplier and competition would prevail. “The rollout plan is very important as we would come to know the demand growth in electricity supply in Mumbai,” said Ashok Pendse, power expert.

Tata Power got permission to augment its network in August 2014 from the Supreme Court — and it’s preparing rollout plans. This plan encompasses how its network would look in the Mumbai suburbs in the years to come.

Sources said that due to several redevelopment projects plus the newer residential and commercial buildings, the electricity demand in the city is likely to increase by another 700 MW.

MERC came down heavily on BEST for not being able to come up with its own rollout plan, soon after the Supreme Court decision in August 2014, which allowed Tata Power to supply electricity across Mumbai. The Undertaking on the other hand is dependent on the BEST Committee members and BMC committees — comprising corporators and politicians from different political parties — for approval.

Sources said that over the last few days, MERC has also come down heavily on Tata Power for its inability to submit a proper rollout plan. They added that on Friday (September 4), MERC questioned if Tata Power will lay lines irrespective of whether there is demand or not. For long Tata Power has been blamed for cherry picking the areas where it will provide power supply.

Tata Power has been vehemently refuting this allegation, saying that it has developed 11 clusters that include areas like Mira Road, Dahisar, Kurla LBS, Saki Naka, parts of Malad, Trombay, Mankhurd-Chembur, Anushakti Nagar, Andheri (West), and Kandivli (East).

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