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CERC to remain shut for one more month as Centre hunts for legal member

ACME Solar intervenes for release of reserved orders at CERC

CERC, windmills, renewable energy
The Ministry of Power on Monday asked the SC for four weeks to search and appoint a member (law).

Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC) will remain shut for one more month, the Supreme Court directed on Monday. Country’s apex electricity regulator has been suspended by the Court since August 28 when CERC failed to appoint a mandatory Member (Law) in its quorum.

The matter pertains to a Supreme Court order in April 2018 when it directed all state electricity commissions to appoint a member from the field of law with qualifications of a high court or district judge.

The Ministry of Power on Monday asked the SC for four weeks to search and appoint a member (law). The ministry said the final selection of the member would be done by a Cabinet Committee.

The Court is hearing a contempt petition filed by K K Agarwal and argued by advocate Ravi Sharma against the central government for not appointing a legal member.

“The Centre was not sure on the time it will need to appoint member law. The Central government has tentatively asked for four more weeks. So, CERC will remain non-functional for a month more,” said advocate Sharma.

A copy of the order was not available till the print time. The SC will hear the matter again on December 4, 2020.

The ministry advertised for the vacancy of member (law) for CERC in April 2019 and October 2019. But the selection committee did not finalise any candidate and cancelled the process. Meanwhile, two other non-law members – I S Jha, former chairman and managing director, Power Grid Corporation, and Arun Goyal, retired secretary, Government of India, were appointed.
The apex court, on August 28, directed the two other members to go on leave till a legal member is appointed, thereby suspending functioning of the CERC. The regulator has a chairman, and two other members are needed to complete the quorum for conducting hearings.

As pending cases pile on at CERC ACME Solar has intervened in the case citing delay of orders at CERC. The Gurgaon-based solar power project developer asked the Supreme Court to let CERC issue the orders in the cases where the judgement has been reserved by the regulator.

ACME had filed a petition at CERC in May this year asking for cancellation of its 600-MW solar power project in Rajasthan which it won at a record low tariff of Rs 2.44 per unit in 2018. The company in its petition cited Corona pandemic as one of the reasons for cancelling the power purchase agreement (PPA) for the project with the government agencies.

Approaching the SC on Monday, ACME Solar requested the apex court to take into account the financial difficulty being faced by them and several such petitioners. The company asked for release of the reserved orders by the CERC.

The SC would hear the intervention application after five weeks.

According to the data available at the website of CERC, there are 1,000 cases pending with the Regulator. Out of this, in 173 cases the Order has been reserved by the CERC and but not pronounced yet. There are 450 fresh applications which are pending for hearing at the CERC.