The Punjab State Electricity Regulatory Commission (PSERC) has directed the Punjab State Power Corporation Ltd (PSPCL) to ensure 100 per cent metering of Agriculture Power (AP) connections supplying power to tubewells in the state by 2023.
The issue of installing meters on AP connections has met with widespread opposition from farmers in the state who fear that this move will be a precursor to the withdrawal of the free power being provided to AP connections.
However, in its tariff order issued Monday, PSERC has said that Section 55 of the Electricity Act 2003 mandates that no licensee shall supply electricity except through installation of a correct meter. “In Punjab, all consumers, except AP, are metered. The commission has been issuing directions to PSPCL to ensure 100 per cent metering in a phased manner but no action has been taken to fulfil the mandate of the act,” the order stated.
The PSERC has said that the state government has been paying meter rental of AP consumers as part of the subsidy claimed by PSPCL in the Annual Recurring Revenue (ARR) and there is no financial burden on PSPCL for implementing the directions of the commission. “PSPCL is directed to complete 100 per cent metering of all the consumers, including AP consumers, in a phased manner within a maximum period of five years starting from April 2018,” says the PSERC order.
The order further states that PSPCL shall install meters on all AP consumers fed from at least 20 per cent of AP feeders spread across the state in each year so as to complete the job in five years i.e. by March 2023. “In view of Punjab government guidelines dated September 4, 2017, all new AP connections are to be metered. Failure to achieve the yearly target of AP metering shall invite a minimum progressive cut of one per cent on AP consumption over and above any other disallowance which the commission may impose while calculating the AP consumption,” said PSERC.
Referring to the progress in this matter till March 2017, the commission noted that no efforts have been made by PSPCL to provide 100 per cent metering on even five per cent of pure AP feeders. It also noted that the power corporation did not also hire an independent agency to record metered energy and pumped energy of these AP feeders to calculate the transmission and distribution losses. “The commission observes that PSPCL is always reluctant to implement measures for true computation of AP consumption for obvious reasons,” it said.
Hinting at manipulation of AP power consumption for claiming higher subsidy, the commission has also referred to one of its previous orders on this issue to PSPCL in which it had said Punjab government is fully subsiding AP consumers by paying a huge subsidy. “This is public money. The inflated claim of agriculture consumption results in lower transmission and distribution losses, creating a myth of improvement in performance parameters by PSPCL. Thus accurate computation of AP consumption is essential to protect public money and also to determine actual transmission and distribution losses in the state,” it said.