The Planning Commission, perturbed by the continued theft of electricity and massive transmission and distribution (T&D) losses that are expected to touch Rs.68,000 crore this fiscal, will soon set up an expert group to find out the causes for such losses.

“We would set up an expert group to know the financial status of the distribution companies,'' Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia said at the State power ministers' conference here on Wednesday.

The expert group is expected to submit its report within six months.

On the composition of the group, Mr. Ahluwalia said the Planning Commission was trying to rope in the services of a former Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG). The other members would obviously be from the power sector.

Mr. Ahluwalia said “in view of the huge T&D losses… if we would not increase the power tariff, the States would become bankrupt. According to the 13th Finance Commission report, the T&D losses were about Rs.40,000 crore in 2009-10 which would swell to Rs.68,000 in the current fiscal if the tariff is not hiked from the 2008 levels.''

He said unless the distribution system becomes financially viable, generation and transmission would be in deep financial crisis. “We would have to make distribution financially viable,'' he added

Speaking on the occasion, Power Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde said the government had added 22,302 MW in the first three years of the XI Plan.

He expressed confidence that with the close cooperation and active support of State governments, the balance 40,000 MW in the remaining period of two years would be achieved.

Although the capacity addition target for the XII Plan is still to be finalised, the Power Ministry is tentatively planning to peg it at 100,000 MW.

Mr. Shinde said the Centre was implementing programmes worth Rs.51,577 crore to further reduce the losses and bring them to the national average of 15 per cent. The Minister announced that it had been decided to provide underground cabling in places of tourist and religious importance and hill stations under a new scheme. He informed that the Power Ministry had launched a scheme for electrification of villages within 5 km periphery of generation plants of Central public sector units for providing reliable and quality power to the project-affected people. Electricity connections to BPL households would be provided free.

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