The Delhi government has started looking for a new chairman to head the city’s power regulator, which is gearing up to take a call on petitions filed by discoms to make electricity tariff revisions “apolitical” by linking them with market prices of goods and services.
The Delhi Power Department initiated the process of appointing a new chairman to Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission (DERC) earlier this month by conveying the decision in a letter to all states, Union Territories, IITs, IIMs and central power sector utilities among others.
Incumbent chairman Justice (retd) Satyendra Singh Chauhan had joined the commission on July 5, 2018. Chauhan told The Indian Express that the government will have to find a replacement for him as he is turning 65 soon, and under the Electricity Act, 2003, chairman and members of the commission shall hold office for a term of five years or till the age of 65 years, “whichever is earlier”.
While an elaborate recruitment process is being carried out this time, Chauhan was appointed to the post directly as the Electricity Act, 2003, allows such appointments in case of retired judges.
Before him, the appointment of Krishna Saini to the post was a flashpoint in the AAP-L -G ties as the then L-G Najeeb Jung had struck down the appointment in September 2016 citing lack of his approval prior to the decision. As a result, the post had remained vacant for nearly two years till Chauhan’s appointment.
The appointment process coincides with the DERC’s annual exercise of taking a call on tariff petitions filed by discoms including BSES Rajdhani, BSES Yamuna and TPDDL, which supply power to large parts of the national capital.
According to documents, BSES Rajdhani and BSES Yamuna have projected a revenue gap of Rs 1,703 crore and Rs 1,148 crore respectively for 2021-22, while Tata Power expects a gap of Rs 1,108 crore. The companies have put the cumulative revenue gap (till 2019-20) at Rs 28,623 crore (BRPL), Rs 19,123 crore (BYPL) and Rs 3,810 crore (TPDDL).
Discoms have been demanding a power tariff hike over the last six years. This, the discoms claim, have led to mounting regulatory assets, which are expenses not taken into account while fixing tariffs annually.
In its petition, TPDDL has suggested that power tariff be linked with wholesale price index (WPI) or consumer price index (CPI). “This will not only help in timely revision of tariffs leading to lower carrying cost burden on consumers but will also make the process scientific and apolitical. Similar concept was already done in case of auto fuel by the government of India,” it filed.
Both CPI and WPI are indices to measure inflation. While WPI tracks inflation at producers’ level, CPI reflects price changes at the level of the consumers.
TPDDL has also referred to the “unprecedented upheaval caused by Covid-19 putting strain on cash flow position of the petitioner”. “We have virtually reached a stage where we cannot afford to pay any additional amount over and above normal routine payments like power purchase payment and O&M (operations and maintenance) expenses,” it added.
BSES discoms, on the other hand, have once again pitched that power subsidy be transferred to consumers in the form of direct benefit transfers like in case of LPG and be excluded for beneficiaries who pay bills late or are found stealing power.
While the virtual public hearing on the petitions will be held between April 15 and 20, the last date of submission of comments and suggestions has been pushed to April 20.