Power tariff hike likely from July 1

GUWAHATI: After the recent hike in petro prices, people in the state may get another blow with discussions for a possible increase in power tariff on. The new rates are likely to be implemented from July 1.

On May 24, Assam State Electricity Board (ASEB) was granted permission by the Assam Electricity Regulatory Commission (AERC) to effect a hike of 25 paisa per unit in power tariff for all categories of consumers, except those belonging to the below poverty line (BPL) category. For people of the BPL segment, the hike will be 15 paisa per unit.

Assam State Electricity Board (ASEB), which is presently having a deficit of 789 MW, is buying 653 MW from the Centre and private power generators at a high cost. "During peak time, the state's total power demand is 1026 MW out of which we produce only 237 MW. We purchase 653 MW from various PSUs and the central government. But the state still has a deficit of 136 MW which is leading to power cuts," said a senior ASEB official.

At present, the ASEB is running three power projects of its own. While the Karbi Lampi project is a hydel facility, the ones at Namrup and Lakwa are thermal. Though the Karbi Lampi project generates 100 MW of power, the thermal ones are only producing 126.02 MW out of the total capacity of 254 MW.

"Inadequate supply of natural gas has forced us to run only two units out of four in these thermal projects. We have to purchase the deficit amount of gas at a high cost which may lead to the power tariff hike. But no decision has yet been taken to hike the tariff as we increased it only last month. This was done after two years," the official added.

It may be mentioned that the ASEB's Chadrapur thermal power project was shut down a few years ago for non-availability of natural gas. Though many civil society groups and even the ASEB urged the state government to revamp the Chandrapur power project, the latter is yet to take any step. The Chandrapur project has a capacity of generating 60 MW.

"It's sad that the Chandrapur project was shut down. Though the ASEB urged the state government to revamp it many times, necessary action is yet to be taken. Had it been made operational, power shortage in the city could have been met," he added.

On the other hand, the Consumers' Legal Protection Forum has asked the ASEB not to hike power tariff as it's going to hit the people badly. "Another hike in the form of fuel and power purchase adjustment charge in the range of 60 paisa to 70 paisa per unit is likely to be effected by ASEB by July 1. The forum strongly opposes the decision," said Ajay Hazarika, the chief coordinator of the organization.