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Power regulator off for a year

Ranchi, Dec. 15: Jharkhand State Electricity Regulatory Commission (JSERC), the statutory watchdog for power distribution and generation, completed one full year in dormancy today.

If the regulatory body has been lying inactive for the past 365 days, it is solely for want of a chairman.

The JSERC was rendered headless after Mukhtiyar Singh, an IAS officer and former finance commissioner, retired on December 15, 2012.

According to the JSERC Act of 2003, the term of a chairman is either five years or 65 years of age, whichever comes first.

Singh, who was made the JSERC chief on July 16, 2008, retired last year on turning 65, leaving a lone T. Muni Krishniah, member (engineering), to fend for himself.

The JSERC Act further states that at least two members are needed to determine the power tariff, examine and review tariff proposals, hear cases, issue licences for distribution and transmission of power, adjudicate upon disputes between licensees and generating companies, promote generation of electricity from renewable sources, among others.

Hence, with only one member remaining, the regulatory body finds itself virtually paralysed.

To make matters worse, JSERC secretary Sajiva Lochan also retired on April 1 this year.

Though the JSERC secretary is not entitled to conduct hearings, he attends to various administrative matters, besides acting as a vital link between the regulatory body and the state government as well as the outside world.

Krishniah, therefore, has to oversee everything in addition to his own duties.

Sources said a number of power producers had expressed their displeasure at the regulator’s failure to revise tariff proposals which was long overdue.

According to power producers, input costs are rising and non-revision of tariff is forcing them to incur operational losses as expenses are far outstripping revenue collection.

Seven producers — Jharkhand State Electricity Board, Tenughat Vidyut Nigam Limited, Jamshedpur Utilities and Services Company Limited (Jusco), Tata Steel, Damodar Valley Corporation, SAIL-Bokaro Steel and Tata Power — are running in Jharkhand to meet its growing demands.

When asked, Krishniah said: “We have received tariff-related petitions in April this year from all the seven producers. Preliminary scrutiny of the tariff proposals and seeking clarifications have already been done.”

He added that once a new member or a chairman was appointed, public response on the tariff proposals would be invited.

“This would be followed by holding public hearings, before the tariff rates are fixed,” Krishniah said.

So when will it happen?

Krishniah said though he was not competent to comment on appointments to be made by the state government, he had received word that a new member was likely to join office by the end of this week.

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