Several states, mostly non-BJP ruled ones, clamoured against the new proposed amendments to the Electricity Act, 2003, during the State Power Ministers’ Conference on Friday.
The meet, held via video conference between power ministers/departments of states and the Union ministry of power, saw Bihar, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Odisha and Kerala protesting against the amendments, said sources.
The Centre, in April, unveiled draft amendments to the Electricity Bill, 2003 and asked the states to submit their comments. Major amendments include an end to subsidised power, replacing it with ‘direct benefit transfer’ of subsidy, reduction of cross-subsidy burden on industrial consumers, new contract enforcement authority and new selection process for existing state electricity regulatory commissions (SERCs).
West Bengal, in its representation, said the new amendments to the Act are an “infringement of sovereignty of the state.” The state government opposed almost all the new provisions proposed in the draft Bill, 2020. The state opposed the proposal of having a committee for selection of members of SERCs. Rajasthan, along with West Bengal, said this takes away the autonomy of states in the selection process.
There were several states which condemned the move to end subsidised power. The provision of power tariff determination has been revised in the Bill and it asks all SERCs “to determine tariff for retail sale of electricity without any subsidy under Section 65 of the Act.” It proposes to give subsidy directly to the consumer.
States opposed this on the ground that it would be difficult to enforce DBT in electricity, sources said.
One of the proposals of the draft Bill is to open power distribution to the private sector. The Centre has also urged states to join hands with private power distributors, on franchisee basis, to improve their revenues.
Bihar, which is a BJP-ally state, opposed the proposal for privatisation of power distribution as it fears there will be an increase in power rates.
The draft Electricity Bill, 2020, has received comments from all stakeholders and is under consideration.