KERC may find tariff revision an uphill task

KERC may find tariff revision  an uphill task

The Karnataka Electricity Regulatory Commission (KERC), which has begun the scrutiny of power tariff applications of the electricity supply companies (escoms) for the year 2014-15, will find itself handicapped to conduct hearings, as the State government is dilly-dallying on appointing members to the vacant posts in the commission.

The KERC has been reduced to a single-member body for the first time ever since it came into existence and this time, the chairman alone will be conducting the hearing, if the government further delays the appointment of members to assist him in technical and legal issues. Two members, Vishwanath Hiremath and Srinivasa Rao, retired on October 22, 2013. Hiremath was a legal advisor and Rao a technical advisor. Both were appointed on October 23, 2008.

Though the commission says that the hearing process will not be affected, power experts say the crucial advice without the two technical expert members will make public hearings difficult. “The commission is not limited to tariff revision. It needs to look into technical aspects. For instance, the plant-load factor of the Raichur Thermal Power Station has come down to 60 per cent from 90 per cent. Such issues need to be addressed with the help of technical experts, which is lacking even at this stage when the prudence check of the applications by escoms needs to be done by the members,” said a power expert.
The situation will burden the chairman who should conduct hearings across the State after scrutiny is completed and consumers file their objections.

The commission adjudicates disputes between power generators and escoms, determination of tariff for generation, transmission and supply of power.

It needs to regulate electricity purchase, procurement and the process of distribution by escoms. It should also facilitate intra-state transmission facility, issue licences for transmission and distribution, and for electricity traders. “For all these, the role of two members is crucial,” said an expert.

According to the norms, the State government shall, within a month from the date of occurrence of any vacancy by reason of death, resignation or removal, and six months before the superannuation or end of tenure of any chairperson or a member, make a reference to the selection committee for filling the vacancy.

The State government will accordingly constitute a selection committee consisting of a retired judge of the high court as chairman of the committee, a chief secretary and a member of the Electricity Board.

But the process of selection is yet to begin in the State, despite the fact that the members retired in October 2013 and the tariff revision hearing is hardly a month away. The members will be administered oath by the governor of the State as the commission is a quasi judicial body.

KERC reaction

KERC chairman Srinivasa Murthy told this newspaper that the tariff revision hearing will go on. Though he admitted that it would be an uphill task this year in the absence of members, he said the commission’s work will not be stopped for this reason. He said the government had begun the process to appoint the members.

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