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The policy entails SERCs to fix average number and duration of outages per consumer per year for discoms.mint
The policy entails SERCs to fix average number and duration of outages per consumer per year for discoms.mint

Power ministry drafts consumers’ rights for 24X7 electricity

The policy proposes imposition of penalty in case of disruptions in electricity supply to consumers

The Union power ministry has drafted the rules detailing the rights of electricity consumers, guaranteeing reliable power supply across the country.

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

“The distribution licensee shall supply 24X7 power to all consumers," according to the Electricity (Rights of Consumers) Rules, 2020.

However, the SERCs (state electricity regulatory commissions) may specify lower hours of supply for some categories of consumers, such as agriculture, according to the draft rules that have been circulated for comments and will be finalized after the views are received.

The main features of the draft rules include “reliability of service: SERCs to fix average number and duration of outages per consumer per year for discoms," according to a Union power ministry statement on Wednesday. “Compensation / penalties for delay in service by discoms; compensation to be automatic as far as possible, to be passed on in the bill," it added.

“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," it said.

Power and new and renewable energy minister Raj Kumar Singh had earlier spoken about a penalty for 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. However, gratuitous load-shedding is not. So, if you have taken a licence to serve an area, you better serve it," Singh had said in an interview.

The Electricity (Rights of Consumers) Rules, 2020, also call for timely and simplified procedure for connection, expediting the modification of existing connection, 2% to 5% rebate on serving bills with delay of 60 days or more and all bills of 1,000 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 has said earlier.

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

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