Electricity tariff revision yet to be announced; citizens fear hike
As the State enters yet another lockdown amidst a second, more aggressive wave of COVID-19 infection, there is uneasiness about an impending hike in electricity tariff.
For three years in a row, the Karnataka Electricity Regulatory Commission (KERC) has not announced revision in tariffs before the beginning of a new financial year. And with retrospective tariffs for the previous financial year set to be adjusted in the next two years, citizens are bracing for a possible hike.
The Bangalore Electricity Supply Company (Bescom) had sought an average hike of ₹1.39 per unit for FY 2021-22, and officials had said that fixed charges is the main component of the hike and is more pronounced for three categories: HT connections, temporary connections and IP sets.
In November 2020, seven months after the new fiscal commenced, the KERC had announced increase in tariff by an average 40 paise per unit. But, the commission had decided to make the new tariffs applicable from November instead of April, saying it is to ensure that consumers are not burdened during the adverse economic conditions during the pandemic.
Bescom had asked for ₹1.96 per unit hike citing a revenue deficit of ₹5,872.08 crore for 2020-21.
However, the commission had clarified that the relief is only temporary as ₹1,443 crore that would have been recovered as additional revenue towards tariff revision for seven months from April 1, 2020, to October 31, 2020, against the total revenue gap of ₹2,473 crore, has been kept as “regulatory asset” to be recovered from the consumers in the financial years 2022 and 2023.
Apart from the pandemic, pendency of an appeal filed by KPTCL before the Appellate Tribunal for Electricity (ATE) against a KERC order issued in January 2020, which was disposed in October, and the election code of conduct coming into force due to the byelections also caused delay, the commission had said.
This year, again, the pandemic, as well as the code of conduct for elections resulted in a delay in pronouncement of tariffs.
Though no KERC official, including the chairman, was available for comment despite repeated attempts, sources in the electricity supply companies (Escoms) said they had earlier received communication from the commission that the tariff revision had been postponed.
“We then heard that the announcement would happen after the elections. Escoms will find it difficult as we have to raise short term loans. In addition, generation and power supply hasn’t stopped,” said a senior official, who wished to remain anonymous.
Officials also said consumption had dropped, perhaps owing to the recent rain as well as lockdown and pandemic effect.
“The consumption is around 9000 MW now, and we are assuming IP set load falling due to the rain to be one of the reasons. In April first week, it had reached 14,000 MW. We can manage for a month or two without revision, but it will be difficult if we have to wait an additional six months along with last year’s pending arrears,” said the official.