Domestic electricity consumers in the state will have to pay 20 paise more per unit of power from April 1. This is the second hike in power tariff for household consumers in the past two years. The Odisha Electricity Regulatory Commission had also hiked the power tariff of the agriculture sector where the rates went up by 40 paise per unit. Farmers, who were earlier paying Rs 1.10 per unit of power, will now have to pay Rs 1.50. The hike for the agriculture sector comes after a gap of 15 years.
For the domestic consumers, the commission has decided to charge at the rate of Rs 2.50 per unit for power consumption up to 50 units (see chart). For consumption above 50 units and up to 200 units, the tariff will be Rs 4.20 per unit, and it will go up to Rs 5.20 for consumption up to 400 units. For consumption beyond that the rates per unit will be Rs 5.60.
That the energy management in the state is in a bad shape becomes evident from the fact that the tariff even for the BPL consumers, who were availing themselves of the state government's Biju Kutir Jyoti Yojana, has not been spared. It has gone up from Rs 65 per month for consumption up to 30 units to Rs 80.
The move comes just 20 days after the commission had revoked the licences of three power distribution companies - Wesco, Nesco and Southco - managed by R-Infra (Reliance Infrastructure Limited) for their unsatisfactory performance and failure to support power reforms initiated in the state in the mid-90s. These utilities have been engaged in power distribution in the state since 1999.
Their licences were revoked on the grounds of unsatisfactory performance in key areas such as energy auditing, bringing down aggregate technical and commercial losses, poor billing efficiency and non-payment of arrears. Now, the R-Infra has moved the Supreme Court against the commission's order.
Explaining the reasons behind the decision to hike, commission secretary G.K. Dhal said: "The state-run Gridco owes Rs 740.72 crore as arrears to the National Thermal Power Corporation towards purchase of electricity. Gridco has been asked to pay the amount by the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission. So, there was no other option but to increase the tariff."
Sources said Gridco purchased power from various sources, including the corporation, to feed the power distribution companies. However, other factors such as increase in the number of electricity consumers, inadequate generation of low-cost hydropower, rise in the cost of coal and furnace oil and essential inputs for thermal power generation, have also contributed to the hike.
The commission, on its part, maintained that there was neither any change in the monthly minimum fixed charge (Rs 20 per kiloWatt) for consumers nor in the metre rent. The prevailing metre rent for single-phase electronic magnetic metres is Rs 20, while it is Rs 40 for three-phase electronic magnetic metres.
Energy minister Pranab Prakash Das said: "The commission, which is a statutory body, takes the decision to hike the power tariff. However, this hike will not affect the people much."
On being asked about his party's commitment to cheap power to the people, he said: "The government is only nine months old. We are hopeful of keeping our commitment."
Leader of Opposition Narasingha Mishra said the hike reflected the government's attitude towards the poor. "It is really unfortunate. The decision is anti-farmer."
BJP legislature party leader Basant Panda said: "The government has cheated the common man and the poor."