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Tuesday, Dec 17, 2002

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Single tariff rate for CESC power

Our Bureau

KOLKATA, Dec. 16

THE West Bengal Electricity Regulatory Commission (WBERC) on Monday created a history of sorts by announcing a single rate of tariff for all categories of consumers of the RPG-controlled power utility CESC Ltd, linking the rates to the average cost of supply.

Ending a two-and-a-half month long battle of words, arguments and counterarguments with the State Government, the WBERC delivered its tariff order for 2000-01 and 2001-02.

Billing at the rate relevant for 2001-02 (since that for 2002-03 has not been decided) would start from February next so as to give ``breathing time both for the utility and the consumers'', the WBERC Secretary, Mr R.N. Das, told presspersons.

The rates now fixed are Rs 3.81 per kWh for 2000-01 and Rs 3.9 for 2001-02 ``for every category of consumer'' of CESC, the brief 11-page tariff order said.

CESC's comments were not available as their official spokesman said they would have to study it first.

Currently, CESC's domestic consumers pay at the rate varying between Rs 1.73 and Rs 4.74 per unit while the rate varies between Rs 3.35 and Rs 5.64 for commercial consumers. Industries pay between Rs 3.23 and Rs 4.92. Of the 17 plus consumer base of CESC, 14.5 belong to the domestic category company sources said.

These are the rates, which are being levied by CESC since June 2002, on the basis of the rates announced by the Calcutta High Court, which awarded CESC, rates higher than what was allowed by the WBERC in its original order given in November 2001.

The Bharat Chamber of Commerce and some consumer bodies challenged the High Court order and the Supreme Court reverted the matter to the WBERC.

The apex court also said that as per the 1998 Electricity Regulatory Act, there should be no discrimination between consumer categories and the State Government should pay the cross-subsidisation amount upfront in case it wants this system to continue. Mr Das said that adjustments by the way of either arrear collection or refunds would commence from April 2003 in equal instalments.

The order said that it is still open for the State Government to indicate its intention to subsidise any class of consumers. The commission will issue further orders/directions for subsidised tariff once the State Government gives clear indication in this regard. Per se, there would be no review of this order, other than to correct for typographical or clerical errors, Mr Das said.

The State Power Minister had announced at a press conference that total removal of cross-subsidisation was not possible in this socio-economic milieu and the State Government would seek legal redress in case the commission dismantled cross-subsidisation.

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