PATIALA: a large number of power sector experts and engineers from across the country have raised serious concerns about the Electricity (Amendment) Bill 2014 which seeks to extend privatization to power distribution. These experts and engineers are of a firm view that this may worsen power sector crisis.
The experts and engineers after two days deliberations held at Bengaluru demanded that the Amendment Bill be put on hold and the proposed changes in Electricity Act 2003 should be discussed with all stakeholders, including power sector engineers, employees and consumers before presenting in the Parliament.
The Amendments Bill intends to bifurcate the distribution of power into the carriage (infrastructure) and sale of power. A government company will lay down the wires that carry electricity, while private companies will compete over selling that electricity to consumers to earn profits.
Spokesperson of the All India Power Engineers Federation (AIPEF) V K Gupta, which has its head office here, said the Electricity Act 2003 had failed to yield the desired results and the power sector is facing a financial crisis and is on the verge of collapse. In such a scenario the government must also review the Electricity Act 2003 and the repercussions and reforms that followed, which have landed us in this situation.
The distribution companies (Discoms) have already accumulated losses of Rs 4.14 lakh crore while their debt has risen to 4.22 lakh crore as of 2015-16. Gupta said the losses were increasing at a rapid rate as Discoms were paying thousands of crores of rupees to private sector generators, without using even a single unit of electricity due to faulty power purchase agreements (PPAs) and these must also be reviewed.
The power engineers deliberated upon the failure of the private sector. This is evident from Odisha, where all the private power distribution companies are now back in government hands. The experience of the franchise and parallel licensing in Mumbai and privatization of power distribution in Delhi are not encouraging. Huge regulatory assets built up in Delhi and Mumbai and very large investments are required before separating wire and content and inducting new entities into the system, Gupta said.
EAS Sarna, Former Secretary (Power) raised the issue of restoration of techno-economic scrutiny and approval of Central Electricity Authority (CEA). It said the experience of power generation capacity addition in the last decade has created serious problems such as shutting down of thermal plants in the state sector and underutilization of manufacturing capacity in India.
Dr A Gopala Krishnan, Former chairman Atomic Energy Regulatory Board demanded that the nuclear power should be added only after ensuring long-term safety in a transparent manner after taking the public into confidence. There is absolutely no justification in importing nuclear power plant from firms which are either bankrupt or likely to be in near future. Shantanu Dixit and Ashwini Chitnis from Prayas Energy Group said the addition of solar energy should be taken into account not only the cost of the solar plant but also the transmission cost due to underutilization, system stability and operational concerns. The policy of large solar plants need to be reviewed and the alternative of decentralized solar power plants, rooftop solar plants and solar agriculture pumps need to be seriously considered and encouraged, the AIPEF said.