POWER

Maharashtra: MSEDCL artificially reduced distribution losses, says MERC

After years of manipulating agricultural pump power consumption figures, MSEDCL has been finally caught red-handed. Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission (MERC) has accepted recommendations of a working group on agricultural sales, constituted by it, and stated that the distribution loss was far higher than that claimed by the MSEDCL.

The Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company Limited (MSEDCL) in its tariff hike petition had claimed that distribution loss in its area in 2018-19 was 14.7 per cent. However, the working group stated in its report that it was 5.84 per cent higher, that is 20.54 per cent. The artificial reduction was done by inflating farm pump power consumption. MSEDCL has been for years not reducing power theft and claiming that farmers were using more units and passing off electricity stolen as electricity used.

The artificial increase in farm pump consumption was done in two ways. The first was to claim that unmetered farmers were using more electricity. There was no data to back this claim. MSEDCL put forth this claim every year in its tariff hike petitions. This could not be possible with metered farmers. So, the discom sent them inflated bills.

This problem was acknowledged by then BJP energy minister Chandrashekhar Bawankule. He had ordered MSEDCL to hold camps to correct power bills of farmers. In 2015, Bawankule also formed a three-member committee under MSEB Holding Company director Vishwas Pathak to find out actual power consumption by farm pumps.

IIT Powai was also asked to estimate it. Based on the IIT report, two members of the committee — consumer activists Pratap Hogade and Ashish Chandarana — concluded that MSEDCL was inflating agricultural power consumption.

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