Shedding previous norms, regulator DERC conducts interviews for appointment of member

DERCRNI, New Delhi:

The position of Member-DERC (Delhi Electric Regulatory Commission) was never filled through interviews. It was generally supposed to be a political appointment. But shedding all previous norms, DERC has for the first time called for applications from prospective candidates. At the time of this news going to press, interviews were being conducted at the Chief Secretary’s office in the Delhi Secretariat by a panel of 7 people. The position is expected to be filled shortly after the results to the General Elections are announced on 16th May.

These interviews for the Member – DERC are being conducted at a time when DERC is locked in various issues pertaining to power within and without the courts. The Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission (DERC) has rejected requests by distribution arms of Reliance Infrastructure and Tata Power to immediately raise a surcharge on electricity rates by 15% to 33% from the current level of 6%-8%.

Discoms have defaulted on payments for electricity purchased from NTPC and other suppliers, saying that the regulator has not provided for adequate tariff. NTPC had threatened to cut supplies if payments are not made, but the Supreme Court directed it to continue normal supplies. The Delhi government has argued in the court that BSES companies were “inefficient” because they had defaulted, while the distribution arm of Tata Power, operating under similar conditions had paid promptly.

The three distributors in Delhi have said that they face a revenue loss, built up over years of operations, totalling more than Rs. 15000 crore. Reliance ADAG has even said that they are in this for business and they cannot continue into running financial losses. On the other hand, certain people associated with the regulatory authority DERC say that there are lot many avenues for business but the interests of the consumer stands paramount. In a statement given to the Supreme Court recently, DERC has even hinted that the CAG Audit of Discoms is necessary. Interestingly, AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal has been putting up this demand since a long while.

In another hotly debated issue, DERC has said it supports Tata Power’s petition to surrender power and discontinue procurement from the government’s economically unviable gas-based stations. The petition has now been forwarded to the ministry, which will decide on framing of new power purchase agreements.

Senior officials said they had no objection to any of the discoms seeking reallocation of power, and the issue had to be examined by the Delhi government, and subsequently, the Union power ministry. The discoms have informed the power department and Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission that the electricity produced from gas-based plants was expensive and impacting the tariff. The companies have been looking for cheap power from other sources, and have so far been avoiding a tie-up with Bawana. However, the growing temperature and a surge in demand in the coming weeks may leave them with no option.

Another issue that is of extreme interest to the consumers is the continuation of subsidy as in every likelihood the electricity rates are set to be hiked in the near future once the stipulated term for present subsidy expires. The Sheila Dikshit government provided subsidy in two slabs for people whose electricity usage was limited to 400 units. When Arvind Kejriwal became the Chief Minister of Delhi, he slashed the electricity rates for consumers further.

When asked the reason for shedding the previous norm of nomination and going for interviews this time, an official in DERC, on condition of anonymity said that faced with such paramount issues on all fronts, DERC wants the best candidate as Member, whose integrity is not doubtful and who works and who further adds a fillip to the regulatory work that DERC is doing in areas of regulation.

The Member-DERC position is for five years. Already about a dozen people, some retired Government officials as well as people from private and public sector were interviewed today. Interviews will again be conducted on Wednesday.

Real News Intl. News Bureau