Orders it to seek modification of order passed by the Tamil Nadu Electricity Regulatory Commission on March 22

The Madras High Court Bench in Madurai on Wednesday said that the Tamil Nadu Generation and Distribution Corporation (TANGEDCO) cannot resort to unscheduled load shedding for 12 to 16 hours a day, as alleged by consumers in southern districts, without obtaining necessary approval from Tamil Nadu Electricity Regulatory Commission (TNERC).

Justice R. Sudhakar directed the corporation to approach the TNERC afresh seeking modification of an order passed by the latter on March 22. The commission had passed that order on a belief that problems faced by power consumers in the State would recede between May to November in view of the commencement of wind season and commissioning of additional power projects.

Passing interim orders in a writ petition filed by an individual against unannounced power cuts, the judge recalled that Restriction and Control (R and C) measures with regard to power supply in the State began on October 28, 2008 when the TNERC permitted such measures. Subsequently, the measures were modified from time to time on the basis of petitions filed by consumers and power generators.

However, on January 11, 2011, the Appellate Tribunal for Electricity in New Delhi took exception to continuing the R and C measures for an indefinite period in the State of Tamil Nadu while passing orders in an appeal preferred filed by Tamil Nadu Spinning Mills Association. It was of the view that such measures could be enforced only during contingencies such as unforeseen outages of generating units.

In the interest of the consumers, the Appellate Tribunal directed the TNERC to initiate suo motu proceedings and obtain a comprehensive proposal from TANGEDCO as well as Tamil Nadu Transmission Corporation (TANTRANSCO) with regard to short term, medium term and long term plans for meeting the requirement of power. The exercise was ordered to be completed within six months.

Later, at the instance of TNERC, TANGEDCO filed a petition in this regard only on June 22. But that petition was very “sketchy” and did not deal with the issues of short, medium and long term plans as directed by the appellate tribunal. The petition only prayed for implementation of R and C measures until June 2012 when TANGEDCO was confident of achieving self sufficiency.

Not satisfied with it, the TNERC directed the corporation to file a revised petition. In the meantime, while disposing of a writ petition filed by Tamil Nadu Electricity Consumers’ Association in the Principal Seat of the High Court in Chennai, Justice R. Sudhakar on June 30 last year ordered TNERC to dispose of the issue at the earliest after considering the writ petitioner’s claim that the R and C measures were inequitable.

Thereafter, TANGEDCO filed a revised petition before the TNERC on August 12, 2011. But this petition too did not address the issues of short, medium and long term plans in a comprehensive manner. It only spoke about capacity addition of 4,640 MW by the end of 2012 and setting up of 55 substations each with a capacity of 230KV in the next five years.

It was only after an interim order passed by TNERC on August 19 last year that TANGEDCO came out with a comprehensive petition on September 19, 2011. The then Director of TANGEDCO also told the commission that there had been no investment in the power sector since 1990 and that was the reason for the present crisis faced by the State.

After hearing him as well as others, the TNERC had passed the March 22 order wherein it was stated that lifting the R and C measures totally by the end of June 2012 would only create chaos in the distribution of electricity in the State in view of the delay in commission of various power generation units in the State due to one reason or the other.

Further recording the contention of TANGEDCO that about 11 power projects in Neyveli, North Chennai, Vallur, Mettur and Tuticorin would be commissioned between March 2012 and July 2013 and provide a total of 3,025.20 MW of electricity, the commission ordered for graded lifting of R and C measures linked to the commissioning of various generating units.

Though the March 22 order was passed on a positive belief that the power situation would improve after May, the reality was otherwise and the State was facing severe shortage of power even now due to various factors such as failure of monsoon, Mr. Justice Sudhakar said and empathised with the State Government for not being able to ensure equitable distribution of the scarce commodity.

During arguments, Additional Advocate General K. Chellapandian informed the court that the works were on to connect the southern grid with the northern grid and the job was expected to be completed by June 2013. “After this, we will be able to get power from the northern States and situation would be eased. The Chief Minister has been monitoring the issue continuously,” he told the court. Later, the judge adjourned the hearing of the case to November 1.

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