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NEW DELHI: The government is planning to fine electricity distributors from April 2019 for avoidable power cuts and to make it mandatory for the companies to install prepaid or smart meters to prevent electricity theft. The move comes as a part of the government’s Rs 16,000 crore Saubhagya scheme launched in September to provide uninterrupted electricity for all by the end of 2018.
“Our vision is that we want 24×7 power for all by March 2019. Now it will be a legal obligation. After March 2019, if there is any load shedding without any reason, there will be penalties except in case of technical issues or act of God,” power minister R K Singh said on Thursday, after a conference of ‘Ministers for Power and New & Renewable Energy of States & Union Territories’. The fines would be imposed in the financial year starting April 1, 2019, he said, without giving further details.
The minister also said that most of the states have agreed on 24×7 power for all, 90 per cent pre-paid meters and direct benefit transfer (DBT) of subsidies for electricity consumers across the country.
“We are doing away with the human interface totally in metering, billing and collection. The payment for electricity consumption will be through mobile phone. All states have agreed on this,” he said. Asked about the deadline for achieving the goal of 90 per cent pre-paid meters in the country, the minister said there is no deadline. “But we have to reduce losses by January 2019 to ensure 24×7 power for all by March 2019. It is agreed that the (distribution) losses would be reduced to below 15 per cent by January 2019,” he said.
Another issue under deliberation was cross subsidisation as Singh said some states have 19 slabs of tariff. The power tariff will be remodelled according to the report presented by an expert committee. Singh explained that the cross subsidy or difference between highest and lowest tariff would not be more than 20 per cent.
Distribution firms sometimes cut power saying they do not have the cash to pay generating firms. The government says this could be solved by better bill collection and by reducing power theft by those using unauthorised and unmetered grid links.
“Some states are not able to bill the consumers effectively,” Singh said, adding some Indian states were failing to collect payments for about 50 percent of power they supplied. “Where the consumers are billed properly, the recovery is around 95 percent,” the minister said.
As part of its efforts to expand electricity supply, the government aims to distribute solar panels with battery packs to households in areas that are too remote for transmission lines. “As many as 2,100 villages are still to be electrified including 1,100 in Arunachal Pradesh. Some of these are affected due to rain and snow. Thus, the electrification of these villages would be completed by February or March,” Singh said.