The state government has withdrawn its petition which had asked for parity in the tariffs charged by different power suppliers in the city on the day it was to be heard
All men are created equal, but all power consumers will continue to be treated unequally, now that the state government has decided to scrap the idea of equalising the electricity rates charged by sundry suppliers.
The state energy department yesterday rescinded its petition to bring parity in the tariffs of all power suppliers in the city, namely Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST), Reliance Infra (RInfra), Tata Power Company (TPC) and Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company Limited (MSEDCL).
The withdrawal came the same day that the Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission (MERC) a quasi-judicial body meant to address electricity issues across the state was set to hear the petition.
On Thursday morning, authorities at MERC confirmed that the petition had been withdrawn. The petition proposed that all those consuming power in the bracket of 0-100 units and 101-300 units should have a unified tariff irrespective of who they buy electricity from.
As it happens, the majority of power consumers, numbering over 32 lakh, fall in this category 6 lakh of BEST’s 10 lakh-odd consumers; around 21 lakh of the 26 lakh RInfra consumers, and 5.2 lakh of the 5.5 lakh TPC customers.
“Over the months, there has been utter chaos with people in this bracket, as they wanted to go for a changeover (in their power company). This could have stopped if the petition had come through,” said a power expert wishing to remain anonymous.
In fact, the proposal to bring parity in tariffs was conceived chiefly owing to the disparate rates commanded by power companies. Currently, Tata Power which has permission to supply electricity in the suburbs as well as the island city is considered the cheapest, although its consumer base is the smallest.
BEST, which supplies electricity to the island city (Colaba to Sion/Mahim), charges more for those consuming 101-300 units when compared to RInfra (supplying in the suburbs) and less to those consuming 0-100 units (see box).
It isn’t the government’s prerogative to decide the tariffs in the first place, experts claim. “It is for the power utilities to come ahead and suggest tariffs to the MERC on the basis of which a public hearing can be conducted,” said Ashok Pendse, a power consumption expert.
Moreover, if the different groups of consumers within this bracket are brought on a par, those using more than 300 units would have to pay a lot more. Under the present circumstances, the rates of Tata Power seem to be the least.
But if BEST and RInfra match up to Tata Power’s rates, the other bracket of consumers would have suffered higher charges.
No subsidy for MSEDCL
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis recently declared revocation of subsidies worth R706 crore given to MSEDCL every month. The state supplier has its network in the central suburban areas of Bhandup, Vikhroli and Mulund, and its consumers in these locations would face a surge in tariffs in the absence of the government handout.