December 26, 2019 11:49:43 am
PUNJAB RESIDENTS will have to shell out an additional 36 paise per unit of electricity (domestic) as surcharge.
The Punjab State Electricity Regulatory Commission (PSERC) on Tuesday allowed a petition of the Punjab State Power Corporation Limited (PCPCL) moved to recover coal washing charges of over Rs 1,420 crore, which it had to pay to Talwandi Sabo Power Limited (TSPL) and Nabha Power Limited (NPL) following a Supreme Court order in August, and to recover the carrying cost of additional Rs 66 crore for the amount it paid to the two power plants.
In the domestic category of consumers, the hike was calculated to be 30 paise per unit. The 20 per cent electricity duty which goes in the state government’s kitty will result in an effective increase of 36 paise per unit.
The new tariffs will come into effect from January 1 and surcharge will be recoverable in a 12 month period.
For industrial category, the proposed hike was 29 paise per unit plus electricity duty, said a functionary of PSPCL.
A PSPCL functionary said that following Supreme Court orders, there was likely to be recurring expense of Rs 450 crore per year involving coal washing charges which would have to be passed on to the consumers. “And there is likely to be four to five per cent increase in those recurring expenses every year till the time power purchase agreements with the two end,” the functionary added.
The power purchase agreements with the two plants, which were commissioned during SAD-BJP rule in the state, were signed for 25 years.
PSPCL had paid around over Rs 1,400 crore to Vedanta group company Sterlite Energy Limited developed Banawala based Talwandi Sabo Power Limited (TSPL) and Larsen & Toubro run Nabha Power Limited (NPL) in the last week of September and beginning of October as coal washing charges after the two filed a contempt petition in Supreme Court last year, demanding the coal washing charges from PSPCL citing the power purchase agreements signed by the state government.
Earlier, the PSERC and Appellate Tribunal for Electricity (APTEL) had ruled in favour of PSPCL, following which TSPL and NPL moved Supreme Court.
Following an apex court ruling last year in favour of TSPL and NPL, the PSPCL had paid Rs 16 crore to TSPL and nearly Rs 376 crore to NPL. TSPL and NPL, who were seeking a higher amount, then filed a contempt petition in court. After the Supreme Court ruled in favour of the two power plants in August this year, PSPCL paid another Rs 1,002 crore to TSPL out of the total amount, which it worked out to be Rs 1,018 crore (including Rs 16 crore already paid), and paid nearly Rs 422 crore more to NPL after working out a total amount of coal washing charges of nearly Rs 798 crore (including Rs 376 crore paid last year), since the two plants became functional.
TSPL and NPL are claiming another Rs 1,320 crore and have filed another contempt petition in the Supreme Court, the next hearing of which is in January, said a functionary of PSPCL. In the contempt petition, the NPL is demanding more than Rs 870 crore and TSPL more than Rs 440 crore.
A functionary said that there was peak demand of power only for three months in the state during sowing of paddy and the power purchase agreements should have been signed while factoring in this aspect.
SAD condemns hike
The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) criticised the Congress government for “affecting the 18th power tariff increase in less than three years”, saying this would cause “untold misery to the common man and would make industry unviable in the state”.
Former Akali minister Sikander Singh Maluka in a written statement said, “With an additional power tariff hike of 36 paise per unit which included increased additional electricity duty domestic consumers would have to pay Rs 8.37 per unit while the industry would be charged Rs 7.85 per unit.”
Stating that this was “a betrayal of the promises made to the people”, Maluka said “Capt Amarinder Singh had promised to reduce domestic power tariff after taking over office and had even promised power at a landing cost of Rs 5 per unit to the industrial sector.”
He said “power tariff had been increased by more than 30 per cent ever since the Congress government had come to power and that the common man would not be able to bear this burden”. He said “the industrial sector had been made unviable by repeated power tariff hikes and now there was no hope of fresh investment in the state”.
Maluka said, “This was not all. Scheduled caste and backward caste consumers were facing the brunt of the power hikes the most…These consumers are being presented with inflated bills with the government removing the subsidy for backward consumers and not honouring the commitment made to SC consumers.”
He added “even poor consumers were being forced to pay charges whether they consumed power or not. This is in stark contrast to the tenure of the previous SAD-BJP government which had allocated Rs 1,000 crore for SC and BC consumers to extend free power supply to them.”
Maluka demanded a white paper on “the expenditure incurred by the power department”.
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