Demonetisation boosts power utilities’ cash flow

Power utilities across the country, both state-owned and private, have witnessed a minimum 10% surge in revenue compared to the average receipts in first three weeks of a month


The window of utility bill payments in old currency is restricted to households and to current bill payments. Photo: Mint
The window of utility bill payments in old currency is restricted to households and to current bill payments. Photo: Mint

New Delhi: Power distribution companies have turned out to be unexpected beneficiaries of the move to demonetise large currency denominations with consumers rushing to pay their dues in old Rs500 and Rs1,000 bills since Prime Minister Modi announced the decision on 8 November. Till Wednesday night, power utilities across the country, both state-owned and private, have witnessed a minimum 10% surge in revenue compared to the average receipts in first three weeks of a month, according to company officials. 

Power utilities, along with a few other service providers like gas stations, are allowed to accept old currency till Thursday. This has partly eased the cash flow problems of the power distribution sector, the weakest link in the electricity value chain, which is strained by delays in regulatory approvals for power tariff revisions and instances of power theft.

State-owned utilities said their payment counters have been kept open way beyond the usual time to facilitate payments. 

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Syed Bilal Basha, director, finance at Andhra Pradesh Southern Power Distribution Co. Ltd, (APSPDCL ) said the company’s revenue receipt so far this month has gone up by about Rs150 crore from what was the receipt in the same period last month. “We do not know at this point whether this surge in revenue will remain so at the end of the month. If people chose to make early payments which they would have otherwise made later in the current month, this revenue boost may not be as big as it seems now,” said Basha. That would be known only at the end of the month. 

Private power distribution companies in the national capital region-- Tata Power Delhi Distribution Ltd (TPDDL) and Reliance Power Ltd-owned BSES Yamuna Power Ltd and BSES Rajdhani Power Ltd —too recorded revenue gains, despite a decade-old restriction by the state electricity regulator limiting cash payments by consumers at Rs4,000 per connection. Utilities in the state accept payment beyond this limit only in cheques or online transfers.

TPDDL has recorded an 8-10% jump in revenue receipts so far this month compared to the same period in the previous month, said a person aware of the trend, and spoke on condition of anonymity. The BSES companies, in the meantime, recorded a two-three times increase in footfalls at its 228 payment counters in the state, said another person informed about the development, who also spoke on condition of anonymity.

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Puru Gupta, managing director of Assam Power Distribution Co. Ltd said his company has been facilitating consumers to come forward and pay their outstanding bill amounts. “We have kept our counters open beyond the usual time. While we get our revenue, consumers get an opportunity to pay their dues, which anyway they have to,” said Gupta, adding that it was a win-win scenario. Gupta said the company was assessing if there was a sudden jump in revenue collection in the last two weeks, but a clear picture would be available only after Thursday, the last day of accepting discontinued currency. 

The window of utility bill payments in old currency is restricted to households and to current bill payments. No advance payment by old currency is allowed.

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