Power bill tabled in Lok Sabha, Opposition voices concerns | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Power bill tabled in Lok Sabha, Opposition voices concerns

By, New Delhi
Aug 09, 2022 01:44 AM IST

The proposed the Electricity (Amendment) Bill, 2022 seeks to strengthen India’s power distribution sector, which continued to see high technical and commercial losses of around 21% in 2019-20 against a target of 15%.

The government on Monday tabled the Electricity (Amendment) Bill, 2022, in the Lok Sabha amid protests by opposition parties, prompting power minister RK Singh to announce that the draft legislation will be sent to the parliamentary standing committee on energy for further examination.

The Electricity (Amendment) Bill, 2022, was tabled in Lok Sabha on Monday. (ANI)
The Electricity (Amendment) Bill, 2022, was tabled in Lok Sabha on Monday. (ANI)

The proposed law seeks to strengthen India’s power distribution sector, which continued to see high technical and commercial losses of around 21% in 2019-20 against a target of 15%. It also proposes to allow more distribution utilities to operate in the same area, like telecom operators. It talks of setting a lower and upper cap on power tariffs, and seeks to define payment procedures and deadlines, among other things.

Power sector employees across the country protested against the introduction of the draft law on Monday in Chennai, Lucknow, Jammu, Mumbai, Kolkata, Bhopal and Guwahati, among other cities. Both power sector employees and opposition parties demanded further review of the proposed law by the parliamentary standing committee.

The standing committee has Rajiv Ranjan Singh of Janata Dal (United) as its chairperson, and has 27 other members across political affiliations.

After Singh introduced the Bill in the Lower House, Revolutionary Socialist Party’s NK Premachandran raised objections, saying many of the provisions in the proposed legislation are against the federal structure of the Constitution. The proposed law will allow private companies to “mint money” out of the infrastructure made from public exchequer, he alleged.

“The indiscriminate privatisation of the distribution system in power sector by granting licence to multiple agencies to give service in the same area will result in tariff hikes, and that will adversely affect the interest of the ordinary consumers as well as the farmers because they are getting power subsidy,” Premachandran said.

To this, minister Singh said the proposal to allow more than one power distributor in an area had first come up in the Electricity Act, 2003. The intention was to give consumers the option to choose their supplier and encourage competition, he retorted.

The Bill appears to give an overriding power to the Centre over the state regulatory commissions, which are responsible to fix tariffs for the retail sale of electricity, Congress MP Manish Tewari said. The Trinamool Congress party also opposed the Bill.

The power minister, however, maintained that the proposed legislation would ensure stronger state electricity commissions.

“The Electricity (Amendment) Bill, 2022, is pro-people and for the growth of our economy. There is no change in subsidy provisions. The state can give any amount of subsidy, even free power to any category of consumers. There are no provisions in it that would affect farmers. It will rather make state electricity commissions stronger to regulate all distribution companies, public or private,” minister Singh said, defending the Bill. “It will also have new safeguards against cherry picking, which was one of the major concerns raised by states as they feared that private discoms would only pick up profitable areas and leave the low revenue or unprofitable areas for government discoms.”

Delhi chief minister and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) national convener Arvind Kejriwal also objected to the Bill and called it “very dangerous”. “With this, instead of improving the power problem in the country, it will become more serious. People’s suffering will increase. Only a few companies will benefit. I appeal to the Centre not to bring this in haste,” he said.

Energy Conservation (Amendment ) Bill passed

Meanwhile, the Lok Sabha on Monday passed the Energy Conservation (Amendment) Bill to boost clean energy and help in achieving India’s global commitments to tackle climate change.

Explaining the legislation, the power minister told Parliament that the bill seeks to mandate the use of non-fossil sources such as green hydrogen, green ammonia, biomass, and ethanol for energy and feedstock. It will also bring large residential buildings within the fold of the energy conservation regime; enhance the scope of the Energy Conservation Building Code; amend penalty provisions; increase members in the governing council of Bureau of Energy Efficiency; and empower the State Electricity Regulatory Commissions.

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