P. Venugopal

To negate social impact of power Act

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The State Government has decided to assert the rights conferred on it under a specific clause of the Central Electricity Act of 2003 to pass on certain "policy directions" to the State Electricity Regulatory Commission (SERC) neutralising the overall social impact of the Act itself.

One key concern of the Left parties about the Act is that it does not allow cross subsidy and insists on giving power to even the high-end customers at the cost of supply.

If the Government wants to ensure power supply at subsidised rates to farmers and the weaker sections, it has to provide to the utility concerned the fund required to meet the subsidy.

The State Cabinet, at its meeting on Friday, decided to invoke the powers given to the Government under section 108 of the Act to insist upon the SERC that its directions on tariff-related matters should be in line with the policy Kerala had been following all along. This section of the Act says that the SERC shall function in accordance with the policy directions of the State Government.

"The system of cross-subsidy is necessary to ensure social justice without putting a heavy burden on the Government. The Government has decided to instruct the SERC to allow the Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) to continue with the existing tariff structure, under which farmers, weaker sections and domestic consumers enjoy the benefit of power supply at lower rates, with the high-end customers paying higher rates to even out the account," a top official said.

Another direction being given to the SERC is to allow the KSEB to purchase power from small hydel stations promoted by block/district panchayats at an "incentive rate".

This is in line with the Government's policy of encouraging the local bodies to set up small hydel schemes. The Act insists on giving private players open access to the transmission and distribution network. The Government's instruction to the SERC will be that open access should not be allowed in a manner that will allow private companies to indulge in what is called "cherry picking".

In other words, it should not lead to a situation where the public power utility would shoulder all the burdensome responsibilities of the power supply business, allowing the private companies to selectively pick the profitable propositions.

The Government also intends to ask the SERC not to fix `standards of performance' on the public power utility without taking into consideration the practical difficulties at the field level