Amid the row over ‘prepaid’ smart meter roll-out, the Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) has decided to seek additional funds under the Centrally assisted Revamped Distribution Sector Scheme (RDSS) for improving the power distribution infrastructure in the State.
Additional proposals to the tune of ₹10,896 crore will be placed before the Centre through the State government for approval under Phase II of the RDSS, as per a decision taken by the full-time directors of the State-run utility.
Mainly, distribution and sub-transmission works are planned under the additional proposals for which ₹10,860.46 crore has been earmarked. Works under this component include new HT and LT lines, transformers, line conversion and establishment of unitised substations.
A total of ₹35.45 crore has been set aside for electrification of tribal colonies. Under the new proposals, the KSEB also hopes to cover SC/ST colonies, fishermen colonies, and urban slums, according to an April 29 order.
The RDSS is a national-level ‘‘reforms-based, results-linked’‘ scheme cleared by the Union Cabinet for improving power supply, operational efficiency and financial sustainability of distribution companies.
Last year, the Centre had cleared proposals to the tune of ₹10,475.03 crore submitted by the KSEB under RDSS Phase I. It earmarked ₹8,175.05 crore for smart meter roll-out and ₹2,235.78 crore for infrastructure and loss reduction. However, power sector unions slammed the KSEB management for giving priority to the smart meter component over network improvement.
Power sector unions, including those backed by the CPI(M), CPI and the Congress, had accused the KSEB management of showing undue haste in pushing through with plans to install smart meters with prepayment mode (37 lakh meters in Phase I). The smart meter component is eligible only for 15% subsidy from the Centre, while loss reduction works stand to get 60%, they point out.
The unions, under the banner of the National Coordination Committee of Electricity Employees and Engineers (NCCOEEE), have already announced plans to launch strong agitations against the KSEB’s plans to implement smart metering on TOTEX (total expenditure) mode, which they say, will pave way for privatisation of power distribution and outsourcing of revenue-related functions of the KSEB.