Even as Tamil Nadu Electricity Board (TNEB) sought to justify its proposal for tariff revision various bodies representing residents and industries opposed any hike, at the first public hearing organised by Tamil Nadu Electricity Regulatory Commission (TNERC) on the proposal here on Tuesday.

Defending TNEB's proposed move, its chairman C.P.Singh said the hike would have a bearing only on 10 lakh out of the 1.50 crore domestic consumers in Tamil Nadu.

He said: “The average cost of production and distribution had increased from Rs.4.20 per unit to Rs.4.90 per unit whereas the subsidy provided by the State government was Rs.2.20 per unit for domestic, huts and agricultural consumers. Knowing well the financial health of the EB, the tariff revision has become a necessity to make its operation efficient.”

S.Gandhi, member of Power Engineers Society of Tamil Nadu, said that the 120 MW Basin Bridge station could produce power for only 62 days in a year. He also wanted the power supplied by private windmills to the TNEB to be monitored properly.

S.S. Subramanian, secretary, COTEE (CITU), wanted the TNEB's petition to the Commission to be rejected on the ground that the electricity shortage was only a temporary phenomenon. With several mega power projects set to become operational in 2011, Tamil Nadu would be electricity sufficient.

R. Rangachari, advisor, South India Hotels and Restaurants Association, complained that the hospitality industry was finding it hard due to 30 per cent power cut and sought the TNEB to classify the hospitality and hotel industries under industrial tariff. Similarly, S. Periyandi, representing the All District Ice Producers Welfare Association wanted concession for ice producers whose major customers were fishermen.

G. Vedagiri, secretary, North Chennai House Owners Association, and V. Ravichandran, founder, Citizens Guardians, while raising the issue of power theft for organising public functions and political meetings, wanted the TNERC to take note of the consequent revenue loss.

Responding to the complaints of power theft, Mr. Singh said that the TNEB collected Rs.50 crore as penalty this year as compared to Rs.17 crore last year.

The members of Lakshmi Nagar Civic Welfare Association, Nanganallur, pointed out that the revenue loss of the TNEB should not be met by increasing the tariff for households, as the lower and middle-income groups would be severely affected.

The public hearing, which went on for nearly four hours was chaired by TNERC Chairman S.Kabilan, who was accompanied by Commission members R. Rajupandi and K. Venugopal and Secretary R.Balasubramanian. Similar public hearings are scheduled to be held in Madurai on April 4, Coimbatore on April 13 and Tiruchi on April 15.

Written submission by NGO

In a written submission to the Commission, the Chennai-based Citizens Alliance for Sustainable Living (SUSTAIN) argued that the TNEB's petition was liable to be dismissed in limine as it did not conform to basic requirements as stipulated in the Electricity Act-2003, National Electricity Policy, National Tariff Policy and the terms and conditions for Determination of Tariff Regulations of the TNERC (2005).

SUSTAIN wanted the Commission to constitute an independent expert group to go into all aspects of the functioning and finances of the TNEB and come out with a White Paper. It urged the TNERC to mandate a full-fledged DSM-EE (demand side management-energy efficiency) regime for the Board to achieve annual savings of 200 to 250 MW.