Representational image
Representational image

It was in mid-2014 that the lakhs of people residing in south and central Mumbai had got the freedom to select their desired power distributor. However, the BrihanMumbai Electricity Supply and Transport (BEST), in January, this year, approached Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission (MERC) once again to allow only limited open access and cut the wings of consumers to move freely.

Open access allows electricity consumers to forsake their dependency on a single power distributor. The BEST undertaking claimed that high end consumers are switching over and this is affecting them adversely. The BEST undertaking wants a framework whereby open access would be available to only those consumers whose load is more than 1 million volt amperes (MVA). They proposed it to be implemented on a trial basis from 2020-21 to 2024-25 where open access will be available to limited consumers. In the petition, BEST has mentioned that this migration of high end consumers has burdened other consumers.

“The tariff design of BEST is such that the high end consumers cross subsidise the low end consumers. With the migration of high end consumers, it will be difficult for BEST to maintain lower tariff for its low end consumers. The exclusive infrastructure provided for the high end consumers gets stranded and BEST stands to lose on its investment. When a consumer switches over to an alternate licensee, BEST also loses on the recovery of the fixed cost,” reads the reasons mentioned by BEST for limited open access.

The power experts have lambasted this approach of BEST on grounds that limited open access will be partial to the common man who wants to choose his power distributor. The quasi-judicial body of MERC also quashed this petition, as BEST didn’t provide details and numbers on how they want to implement this.

“The commission opines that open access can be made available to the consumers of BEST, since BEST is opting not to avail the exemption provided in the Electricity Act,” reads one of the points raised in the MERC order. “The proposal of BEST appears to be in the interest of the consumers; however, there are certain issues that need to be re-examined by BEST. The commission is not allowing the petition in the current form.”

As on today, BEST has just over 10.50 lakh consumers. Tata Power has 7 lakh consumers, of which roughly more than 2 lakh are those who migrated from BEST over the years.

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