Metering farm power supply fraught with several difficulties

Currently, there are no meters for the 21-lakh odd agricultural services

Political opposition apart, the levy of tariff on agricultural connections is fraught with a host of practical difficulties that will come in the way of effective implementation of the direct benefit transfer (DBT).

Recently, the Centre prescribed the replacement of the free power scheme for farmers with the DBT. It stipulated that the DBT should be launched fully during the next financial year and to begin with, at least in one district by December this year.

The first and foremost issue is how to accurately measure electricity used by the farm connections. At present, there are no meters for the 21-lakh odd agricultural services. At present, the Tamil Nadu Generation and Distribution Corporation (Tangedco) is arriving at the approximate figure of consumption by the farm sector and huts by deducting the details of power used by other categories of consumers from the overall figure.

The Tamil Nadu Electricity Regulatory Commission goes by the disclosed load of the pump sets of the farmers and findings of a sample survey that covers 3% to 5% of the connections. The panel, in its tariff subsidy order in September 2019 for 2019-20, said the estimated load of all farm pump sets in the State was 1.45 crore horsepower (HP).

Yawning gap

It goes without saying that there is a wide gap between the disclosed load and actual load of the pump sets. This is why the Tangedco has come out with a scheme of regularising the connections with extra load up to 15 HP.

So, there is an element of “arbitrariness” in arriving at the figure of consumption for the agricultural services. In fact, this gets reflected in the assessment of aggregate technical and commercial (AT&C) losses too, officials acknowledge. Another issue to be kept in mind is the transaction cost of meter reading and billing which makes it not viable to assess the consumption through meters. Another option is to have exclusive distribution feeders for agricultural connections. It is being talked about for over 10 years with no great progress. But given the development of urbanisation in the State, the segregation will amount to having a parallel network, which will be as huge as the general network. Still, the authorities are planning to have such feeders in Tiruvannamalai district, which has the highest number of connections. The metering of distribution transformers has been cited as a solution but there is not much progress in this regard. Eventually, the authorities may find it much more difficult to update records regarding farmer-consumers who are enjoying the agricultural services.

As there is no need for farmers to update their records with the Tangedco, in view of the free power scheme, the chances of the DBT reaching the genuine beneficiaries under the given circumstances are dim, the officials say. For all these reasons, the idea of DBT cannot be rushed through, the officials add.

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Printable version | May 26, 2020 3:31:23 AM |

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