Punitive tariff for overdrawal of power

Hyderabad Nov. 13. Power utilities in Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala and Pondicherry are in for major shocks.

Orders have been issued by the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission introducing "availability tariff'' (AT) and making it mandatory for all the power utilities to pay up whenever they indulge in overdrawals from the grid, a normal ``electricity offence'' committed due to pressing local needs, resulting in trippings and breakdowns.

A copy of the order received by the Transmission Corporation of Andhra Pradesh (AP Transco) says AT will come into force in the southern grid (region) from January 1 next.

The date was finalised in place of the original April 1, 2001 following court litigation and pleas made by the States, Union Territory.

For the northern region, the tariff will be effective from December 1, 2002.

The western region came under the AT fold from July 1, 2002 (original date August 1, 2001) and for the eastern region the date is yet to be finalised.

Under the AT, the States will have to pay Rs. 4.20 a unit for overdrawal beyond their allocations from the central stations owned by the NTPC.

According to the Principal Secretary for Energy, Andhra Pradesh, V.S. Sampath, and the Technical Director for Transco, M.V.S. Birinchi, the AT will be frequency-linked.

If the frequency of the grid at the time of the overdrawal is 50 HZ (cycles per second), such a drawal will be condoned because there will not be much disturbance to the system.

But if the frequency is below 50 HZ, the central station will collect the AT.

The reason for punishing the utility is that if a State overdraws when generation is less, it will lead to trippings,breakdowns with far-reaching social and economic consequences.

Owing to such overdrawals or technical snags, there have been 22 grid disturbances in the southern region in the past two years, 19 of them originating in Karnataka and two in Andhra Pradesh.

Most States overdraw but none of them owns up when it leads to tripping. But under the AT regime, there is no escape.

The day will be divided into 96 time blocks, each having 15 minutes for the grid for measuring the overdrawal by a State, based on the online information available at the headquarters of the southern region in Bangalore.

Transco officials feel that out of sheer fear of the financial burden, States may opt for activating all their idle units, both IPPs and Government, whose tariff rate works out to less than Rs. 4.20 a unit.

Also, the AT, they add, will certainly bring about "grid discipline'' among the utilities.

At present, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala and Pondicherry work on a capacity of 20,800 MW during peak load (from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.) and on 16,000-18,000 MW during off-peak hours.

Andhra Pradesh has an installed capacity of 9,000 MW but during peak hours, it operates on 7,500 MW.

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