The power ministry has begun consultations for easing regulations for open access of power for consumers. The Centre
has proposed linking tariffs with the cost of power, scheduling by the open access consumers, and category-wise cross-subsidy surcharges. The proposed regulations, however, appear more ambiguous than the current open access regime.
Open access allows large consumers to choose their power supplier apart from distribution company in the host state. These consumers pay cross-subsidy charges and additional surcharges apart from regular charges to source power from other sources. The discoms use these charges to subisdise a category of consumers.
The government is attempting power reforms
without amending the Electricity
Act and this move is unlikely to have far-reaching effects. Aiming at opening up the distribution sector, the Centre
expressed its intention to separate content and carriage — electricity
sellers and infrastructure builders would be two separate entities. This was suggested to enhance demand and increase competition in the power retail market. The government would introduce multiple supply licensees in the content business based on market principles and continue carriage as a regulated business.
The first step in this direction is overhauling the open access system and give consumers the choice of multiple power sellers. To this end, the proposal lists a five-pronged approach. The first and foremost is to make power tariff reflective of the true cost incurred by a generator.
“The tariff design should progressively reflect actual break-up between fixed charges and variable charges according to the discoms’ prudent and efficient cost structure,” the proposal said. Experts point out that this situation is prudent only when the discoms promise assured power supply.
“The discoms have fixed and variable charge breakup because they levy penalties on power generators when they do not supply the agreed amount of power. Similarly, if the consumer pays high fixed cost then there needs to be an assurance of particular hours of power supply,” says an analyst.
Open access consumers pay states cross-subsidy charges to compensate for the power supply
they did not not use despite scheduling. In the past year, several states increased cross-subsidy charges in range of 80-600 per cent for industries, loading them with high tariffs.
The regulations urged the state electricity
regulatory commissions (SERCs) to “determine cross-subsidy surcharge
based on category-wise cost of supply, thus identifying real cross-subsidy”.
The proposed regulations also said, “The SERCs should introduce differential cross-subsidy surcharge
for peak, normal and off peak hours based on the ToD tariff. Time-of-day sensitive pricing can also help address the issue of uneven scheduling by open access consumers.”
The move will be welcomed by industries, which are paying high tariffs, though day-ahead scheduling of power demand will remain a challenge. On the other hand, experts believe that for a seamless power market, CSS and similar surcharges should be removed.
However, cross-subsidy surcharge
still remains the states’ prerogative and increasing revenue by charging more from industries is an easy way out for struggling discoms. The regulations fail to address this and have added more to the load on open access consumers. While the SERCs have been asked to devise proper formulas, the regulations have added more charges to the existing list.
Stakeholders have been given a fortnight to respond with their comments on the regulations.