TNERC tariff order silent on metering of farm connections

Of about 23 lakh free power agricultural connections in the State, around 3.5 lakh have been provided with meters 

Of about 23 lakh free power agricultural connections in the State, around 3.5 lakh have been provided with meters 

The Tamil Nadu Electricity Regulatory Commission (TNERC)’s latest tariff order is silent on the contentious issue of metering of agricultural connections, numbering nearly 20 lakhs, despite the Commission identifying agriculture as the largest consumer of power, only next to domestic consumers for the next four years.

Of about 23 lakh free power agricultural connections in the State, around 3.5 lakh have been provided with meters. This year alone (2022-23), the farm sector, falling under the low tension (LT) category, is projected to account for 16,780 million units of energy sold, of a total of 86,166 MU.

The domestic sector is likely to consume 32,158 MU. In 2026-27, while the total amount of energy sold will be 1,02,342 MU, the domestic and farm sectors are expected to consume 38,363 MU and 20,097 MU respectively, according to the panel’s workings mentioned in the tariff order.

At least, in the previous tariff orders, including the first order of March 2003, there were directions from the TNERC with regard to metering. In the first order, the Commission had asked the now-defunct Tamil Nadu Electricity Board (TNEB) to complete hundred percent metering within three years, as committed by the power utility. This deadline got extended regularly.

“The fact remains that the directives of the TNERC to complete the metering process by September 2012 was overdue by nine years,” the office of Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) observed in its recent appraisal of the Tamil Nadu Generation and Distribution Corporation’s (Tangedco) performance in the implementation of the Ujwal DISCOM Assurance Yojana (UDAY), a report of which was placed in the Assembly in May this year.

Besides, the Union government made the proportion of metered electricity consumption in the total energy consumption including agricultural connections, one of the parameters to be evaluated before allowing States for additional borrowing.

When approached for comment, the TNERC chief M. Chandrasekar said the section of the tariff order, dealing with directions of the Commission, had certain references to agriculture. “Of course, we favour installing meter for every connection,” he said.

The Commission has directed the Tangedco to ensure that all agricultural pump sets were provided with capacitors for effective reduction of aggregate technical and commercial (AT&C) losses and optimum utilisation of available equipment. It has “requested” agriculturists to shift the usage of pump sets to “solar hours” or daytime instead of evening peak hours (6 p.m. to 10 p.m.), which the Commission has called as, “non-solar” hours.

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