Govt will direct MERC to stay Reliance tariff hike: Energy minister

The State Government will invoke a provision in the Electricity Act 2003 to tell the Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission (MERC) to stay any tariff hike awarded to Reliance Energy. The city's suburban power utility has asked MERC for a hefty hike in a petition which was heard last Monday.

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Energy minister Chandrashekhar Bawankule told mid-day on Friday that the government was opposed to Reliance's move of burdening consumers further by hiking wheeling charges (for migrated consumers) a whopping 120 per cent. The company has asked for 35% more in energy charges from residential consumers using 301-500 units by 35 per cent, and 26 per cent more from the consumers in the 501 and above units slab. Consumers using less than 300 units have been spared though as their tariff is proposed to be dropped by 9 per cent.

Reliance has 29 lakh consumers from Bandra up to Mira-Bhayander in the north and from Kurla up to Ghatkopar in the east. Of these, around 20 lakh consumers are residential users. The area is also served by Tata Power which uses Reliance Network/cables to supply power to the consumers, who earlier sought supply from Reliance. These migrated consumers pay a wheeling charge (rental for using the Reliance network for carrying Tata's electricity). Reliance has proposed it to increase from Rs 1.24 per KWh (kilowatt-hour) to Rs 2.73 per KWh.

"If approved, the new tariff and wheeling charges will burden the distressed consumers further. We will use our discretion under the Electricity Act 2003 to stop this. The government will direct that these charges be recovered over the next 10 years and not in one year so that the consumers are spared from tariff shock," the minister told mid-day after a debate on the state's power issue in the ongoing budget session of the legislature.

The minister said he was aware of the concerns raised by the consumers. The consumer representatives who attended the public hearing on Monday had complained that they were not allowed to speak for more than 10 minutes, and the hearing was held at a place in south Mumbai where they could not reach in time. Some MLAs from Mumbai also raised similar concerns in the house.

Earlier, the then government had invoked the a special provision in the Electricity Act-2003 in a span of two months in 2009 to stay MERC's tariff order in a Reliance petition that had decreased tariff for builders, malls and multiplexes in the state while it has increased bills of domestic consumers and public water works users by an average four per cent.
Bawankule said it was unfair on part of Reliance to charge more when other three distribution utilities - Tata (island city and suburbs), BEST (island city) and state-run MahaVitaran (between Kanjur Marg and Mulund) charged less in tariff.

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