Acting on the Delhi government’s direction to compensate electricity consumers for unscheduled power cuts, the state’s power regulator DERC has amended the relevant regulations, making it obligatory for the national capital’s three private power distribution companies (discoms) to compensate the customers for power outages beyond specified durations. The penalties to be paid to a customer range from Rs 50-100 per hour.
DERC has outlined nine possible events of power outages for which discoms would be held responsible and pay compensation and the standard time frame for rectifying such faults without them taking a hit. For example, roster load shedding could be carried out in a particular area for not more than two hours at a stretch; beyond this period, the consumer will be compensated with R50 per hour for the first two hours of default and R100 for each additional hour.
“In case of power supply failure, the licensee shall pay compensation to the affected consumer(s) by way of adjustment against current and/or future bills for supply of electricity within ninety days of failure of the licensee to meet the guaranteed standards of performance,” DERC said in an order issued on Tuesday.
The three discoms — BSES Rajdhani, BSES Yamuna and Tata Power DDL — have pointed out several loopholes and practical difficulties in implementing these regulations in their interactions with DERC. An official at one of the discoms told FE on condition of anonymity that identifying the exact time period of power outage would require installation of smart meters for all consumers and this could escalate power cost.
“Installing smart meters would entail investment of a few thousand crores. In Delhi, around 50 lakh meters would need to be replaced. Cost of a typical smart meter is six to eight times that of the meters being installed today,” the official said. He added that DERC has been very conservative in liquidating the past regulatory assets of these companies. As per an estimate, discoms have accumulated nearly Rs 30,000 crore of regulatory assets as a result of inadequate tariff hikes in the past that did not reflect the actual cost of power procurement.
An official with another discom said that Section 57 of the Electricity Act, 2003, required that before determination of compensation, the concerned licensee should be given reasonable opportunity to be heard. The commission will have to determine if, how and to what extent the person has been affected. He added that compensation must be determined on a case by case basis after a proper hearing and an automatic imposition of compensation by way of regulation was not possible.
Further, officials pointed to several scenarios that could lead to power cuts but were beyond discoms’ control. For example, even kite flying could result in disruption of 33/66 KV lines and snap power supply to over 10,000 consumers, one of them said. There are also cases where civic authorities, while performing underground tasks, cut cables that lead to power outage.