Mumbai: State-owned power distribution utility Mahavitaran Ltd has reversed its decision to increase power cuts in areas with higher transmission and distribution (T&D) losses and lower collections, a move that is likely to dent its financial health.
In May, the power utility decided to increase load shedding in areas with lower collection efficiencies as its monthly billing recovery had increased from around Rs.2,800 crore in April 2012 to Rs.3,150 crore in August.
Depending on T&D losses and the percentage of recovery, Mahavitaran has divided its 132 circles or administrative units into six categories—A to F. In May, Mahavitaran said the A to C circles were free from power outages but blackouts would be increased in the D, E and F circles by two-four hours.
It also announced a new category, G—where distribution losses are more than 50% and recovery of dues is less than 50%—where it said the load-shedding would extend up to 13 hours a day.
However, just a day before he quit the Maharashtra cabinet on 30 September, Ajit Pawar who was deputy chief minister and also held the energy portfolio, announced publicly that the state government will keep its promise and make the entire state free of load shedding by end December.
On 1 October, Mahavitaran announced that circles falling in the D category, too, will be free of load shedding. With this announcement, 80% of the state is now load shedding-free and by the end of December, the entire state is expected to be free of power cuts.
Text messages sent to Mahavitaran managing director, Ajoy Mehta, remained unanswered.
A senior Mahavitaran official, who did not want to be identified as he’s not authorized to speak to the media, justified the power utility’s decision. “There is indeed an improvement in the financial health of Mahavitaran after MERC (Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission) allowed a 16% hike in tariffs,” he said. “Besides this we have signed various medium-term power purchase agreements (PPAs), which have improved the availability of power.”
Pratap Hogade, president of the Maharashtra Electricity Consumer Association, said, “When Mahavitaran announced to increase load shedding in the so-called D, E and F areas in May, we opposed it that time saying Mahavitaran is punishing a majority of consumers for few consumers who are either stealing power from Mahavitaran or have huge arrears. And instead of taking action against these consumers who are thugs and Mahavitaran employees who are hand in glove with such consumers, Mahavitaran is penalizing the average consumer.”
Ashok Pendse, a designated consumer representative to MERC, who is authorized by MERC to represent consumers before it during public hearings on tariff petitions by utilities and on other issues, said, “It is possible to make Maharashtra load shedding-free in December as it is a winter month when demand is low but the real challenge is to keep the state load shedding free between the summer months of March and May.”
This will be difficult as various power-generation projects of state power generation utility Maharashtra State Power Generation Co. Ltd (Mahagenco) are running behind schedule, Pendse said.
The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) said consumers would ultimately suffer.
“Ajit Pawar’s announcement to make Maharashtra load shedding-free is nothing but an eyewash and just to show that ‘we have kept our promise’,” said BJP spokesperson Madhav Bhandari. “The state will buy expensive power on power exchanges whose burden will be ultimately borne by common consumers.”