The Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC) and the Union power ministry would soon be approaching the Supreme Court for an urgent challenge to the rising trend among states to invoke Section 11 of the Electricity Act, 2003, to bar open access between producers and consumers of electricity.
They had already approached the SC around five months earlier, against the decision of the high court in Karnataka to uphold the state government’s decision to bar open access in one case in 2010. They would now be approaching again to give the matter priority, as the section has been again invoked by the governments of Orissa and Tamil Nadu. Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka are also mulling invoking the section.
Section 11 allows state governments to give orders to generators of power on what to do with their output in what were supposed to be exceptional circumstances. However, governments have been issuing the stop-order whenever faced by a power shortage and private companies have tried to sell their output to a higher-paying entity.
In the Karnataka case of 2010, for instance, JSW Power was stopped from proceeding with sale of power to a Tamil Nadu state buyer.
The Orissa government order said generation of hydro power was expected to go down by 1,600 million units during the water year 2011-12 ending June 30, 2012, due to inadequate rainfall in the southern parts of the state, resulting in low reservoir levels at Balimela, Indravati and Upper Kolab. The sharp reduction in availability of hydro power had caused a serious power deficit and so, it was essential to provide adequate supply to domestic consumers.
Tamil Nadu has told all power generation units in the state to maintain output at maximum capacity and to supply to only the state grid or any other consumer within the state as specified.
D Radhakrishna, managing director of Deeaar Group, consultancy, said the Act gave powers to states under sections 11, 37 and 108 to be exercised as contingency provisions. Jayant Deo, managing director of Indian Energy Exchange, cautioned that section 11 needed to be used only in emergency conditions. He said, “If this trend (of regular invoking) is not arrested, the country is heading for darkness.”