The Tamil Nadu Electricity Regulatory Commission proposes to relax norms for free agricultural service connections. This has prompted energy experts to express reservations about some aspects of the draft amendments.
As per the changes proposed, one can apply for an agricultural connection even before digging of a well or borewell. A person can have more than one agricultural connection for different wells within a land survey field number or a sub-divided survey field number, subject to the condition that the wells be physically segregated. The minimum area of the land should be half an acre.
If a well is owned by more than one person, a connection can be given to each person, subject to the stipulation on the extent of land to be owned. Another change being contemplated by the TNERC is to give more than one connection for one well to a person or persons even for “different purpose,” if the well is owned by two persons or more.
These draft amendments to the Electricity Distribution Code assume relevance in the context of Tamil Nadu being one of the States that have a large number of energised farm pumpsets. At present, there are about 20.5 lakh agricultural connections. On an average, 40,000 connections are given every year. About four lakh applications are awaiting sanction. Agriculture accounts for about 17 per cent of electricity consumption. During 2012-2013, the State consumed 72,670 million units (MU), according to a recent official publication.
Suggestions or objections can be sent to the Commission before June 11.
An energy expert, speaking on condition of anonymity, says there is no harm in giving separate power connections for agriculture if a well is shared by more than one person. But there will be practical difficulties if someone applies for a connection even without having a well. Before issuing its consent letter, the Tamil Nadu Generation and Distribution Corporation (TANGEDCO) should know the location of the well so that it can make arrangements in advance. What is more worrying, the expert says, is the Commission’s proposal to permit a connection for a well for non-agricultural purpose.
As farm connections are unmetered, any connection for non-agricultural purpose has to be metered. If the same well is going to be used both for agricultural and non-agricultural purposes, this will lead to misuse, the expert says.