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 The commission may specify lower hours of supply for some categories of consumers like agriculture. Photo: Bloomberg
The commission may specify lower hours of supply for some categories of consumers like agriculture. Photo: Bloomberg

India drafts electricity consumers’ rights

  • State electricity regulatory commissions will fix the average number and duration of outages per consumer per year for discoms, as per the draft

NEW DELHI: The union power ministry has drafted ‘Electricity Consumers’ Rights,’ that calls for round-the-clock supply to consumers across the country.

According to Electricity (Rights of Consumers) Rules, 2020, “The distribution licensee shall supply 24X7 power to all consumers. However, the commission may specify lower hours of supply for some categories of consumers like agriculture."

These draft rules have been circulated for seeking comments and will be finalised post receiving views and suggestions.

According to a union power ministry statement on Wednesday, the main features include, “Reliability of service: SERCs (state electricity regulatory commissions) to fix average number and duration of outages per consumer per year for DISCOMs."

“Compensation / penalties for delay in service by DISCOMs; compensation to be automatic as far as possible, to be passed on in the bill," the statement added.

This comes in the backdrop of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government readying a raft of power sector reforms, including implementing the direct benefit transfer (DBT) scheme in the electricity sector for better targeting of subsidies, promoting retail competition and instilling financial discipline at state-owned electricity distribution companies (discoms).

“Electricity Consumers are the most important stakeholders in the power sector. The sector exists because of them. Having provided access to electricity to all citizens, it is now important to focus on consumer satisfaction. For this, it is imperative to identify the key services, prescribe minimum service levels and standards with respect to these services and recognize them as rights of consumers," the Wednesday statement added.

Power and new and renewable energy minister Raj Kumar Singh had earlier spoken about a penalty due to gratuitous load-shedding.

“We are going to build it into the law that if you resort to gratuitous load-shedding, you have to pay a penalty and the penalty will be heavy. Disruption of supply on account of acts of god is acceptable. But gratuitous load-shedding is not… So, if you have taken a licence to serve an area, you better serve it," Singh had earlier told Mint.

The Electricity (Rights of Consumers) Rules, 2020 also calls for timely and simplified procedure for connection, expediting the modification of existing connection, 2 to 5% rebate on serving bills with delay of sixty days or more, and all bills of 1000 or more to be paid online.

“The policy proposes suspension of licence in case of non-availability of adequate power supply arrangements and imposition of penalty in case of disruptions in supply to consumers, except due to force majeure condition or technical faults," the government said in an earlier statement.

The nationwide lockdown that resulted in peak electricity demand coming down, has caught up with the last year demand levels; with India’s electricity demand expected to grow at around 6% compound annual growth rate.

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