Consumers oppose power tariff hike proposal at KERC hearing

Representatives from various organisations, including Mysore Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Mysore Industries Association, Hebbal Industrial Manufacturers’ Association and domestic consumers have unanimously urged the Karnataka Electricity Regulatory Commission (KERC) to reject the proposal of Chamundeshwari Electricity Supply Corporation (CESC) for a hike in power tariff.

During a public hearing organised by KERC at the court hall of deputy commissioner’s office here on Wednesday, consumers sought the dismissal of CESC’s proposal which seeks a hike of Rs 1.48 per unit across all categories.

Citing operational and backlog losses, CESC, along with other electricity supply companies in Karnataka, sought Rs 1.48 increase per unit across all slabs. The KERC conducted the public hearing here to elicit opinion from the consumers and to record their views. The hearing was chaired by KERC Chairman M K Shankaralinge Gowda and assisted by members D B Manivel Raju and H D Arun Kumar. KERC will decide on the tariff hike once it completes the hearing across Karnataka. He said, if people want quality services, hike in power tariff is inevitable. “However, the recommendation for a hike will depend various other factors,” he added.

CESC Managing Director D Kiran, in his power-point presentation, projected a loss of Rs 962.93 crore in 2017. “Losses incurred out of regulatory assets, backlog loses and overall shortage is hampering the functioning of CESC. About 50% of the power purchased by CESC was hydel-based and there is an acute shortage in its supply owing to deficient rainfall. Hence, the hike is imperative,” he said.

Vice president of Federation of Karnataka Chamber of Commerce and Industries (FKCCI) Sudhakar S Shetty said that consumers and industries are already overburdened with the effects of demonetisation of higher denomination currency notes and introduction of Goods and Services Tax.

Ravindra Prabhu, vice president of KIADB Hebbal Industrial Area Manufacturers’ Association, said that there is a lacuna in the long-term power purchase planning of Cesc. “Power is purchased only during distress when the demand exceeds supply and consequently the rates are high. The tariff hike is unjust and losses are due to the mismanagement by CESC authorities, who are not even bothered about undergoing a service audit,” he said.

Suresh Kumar Jain, secretary of Mysore Industries Association, appealed to KERC to end the practice of passing on the burden of cross-subsidy to industries. “Industries are not just commercial entities but generate jobs and contribute to the GDP growth. The power tariff hike will hit all medium and small scale industries hard. So, small scale industries should be supplied power under LT-5 subsidy category,” he said.

Rajendra Ramapura of the Bharatiya Kisan Sangha said that CESC is simply shifting its burden on consumers. “In view of the prevailing drought situation, CESC should in fact supply power free of cost to farmers,” he said.

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