Faster audit of private discoms to help in better decisions: Piyush Goyal

Written by PTI | New Delhi | Updated: Jul 6 2014, 18:00pm hrs
Piyush GoyalThe Power Minister also hinted that the government may amend the Electricity Act of 2003 to give consumer a right to choose the discom of his or her liking. (Photo: Reuters)
Power & Coal Minister Piyush Goyal has favoured expediting CAG audit of private electricity distribution companies in Delhi so as to help make "better" decisions on issues like tariff.

"That (CAG audit of private discoms) has already started and I hope they do it much faster than the speed at which is happening (now) and I would in fact urge faster outcome of these audits so that better decisions are taken by the regulators," he told PTI in an interview here.

He was asked if he favours the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) auditing books of private firms.

The 49-day AAP government led by Arvind Kejriwal had ordered CAG to audit private distribution companies or discoms in Delhi over hike in power tariffs.

The CAG is auditing two Anil Ambani Group-controlled distribution companies (discoms) - BSES Rajdhani Power Ltd and BSES Yamuna Power Ltd -- and Tata Power Delhi Distribution Ltd that provide electricity to Delhi.

The distribution firms are joint ventures with Delhi Power Co Ltd, which owns a 49 per cent stake in them.

The Power Minister also hinted that the government may amend the Electricity Act of 2003 to give consumer a right to choose the discom of his or her liking.

"It needs some amendment to the law which we are proposing and would hopefully bring in soon," he said when asked how soon a consumer can choose his discom.

The new government, he said, will leave no stone unturned to attract private investment in the sector that is plagued by high transmission and distribution losses.

He indicated that he was not in favour of extending income tax holidays for attracting investment.

"Tax holiday is an old and beaten formula, if the plant has the fuel to run the tax holiday will kick in after a few years, it does not help," he said.

Goyal said he was working to attract more private investments in the power sector by way of resolving the last mile issues of the projects.

Also, he was for Centre and state working closely to resolve issues.

"I think it will be an interesting proposition going forward as we expand our transmission distribution network to talk to the states and find out where their pain points are. For every one step the state takes I can assure centre will take three steps to support them in their endeavours," he said.

The government proposes to separate the power feeder lines for the agricultural and commercial users which will result in smoother and uninterrupted flow of electricity.

"Plans for the segregation of distribution lines are being drawn up. Each state has told us that they have segregated lines. This proposal will be one of the priority items of the government," the minister said.

Stating that the overall control of power transmission will remain with the Central Transmission Utility Power Grid Corporation, the government has already opened certain transmission projects to be set up on build, own, operate and transfer (BOOT) basis.

"I am informed that we already have certain transmission lines which are owned by the private sector on build own operate transfer basis, but the control of the transmission network will obviously be with central utility (Power Grid)," he added.

Goyal in a stern message to private power producers, which have shown unwillingness in setting up the proposed 4,000 MW capacity ultra mega power projects due financial unviability, said, "Anybody is free to walk out and I have no solace to offer to people who give me threat."

However, he added, "I am not an ostrich and I have an open mind and will welcome all suggestions to deal with the issue."

Last month, private power producers in a letter to the minister said that they won't be able to participate in the bidding for two proposed UMPPs with a capacity of 4,000 MW each if their concerns are not resolved as they seek to persuade the government to make changes in bid conditions.

They added that under the current circumstances these projects are not financially viable for them.