According to reports, the state government’s assurance that the state faced no possibility of power cuts in the coming six years must have made investors gung ho about Vidarbha and the remaining state too. However, many local industrialists remained dejected on Monday as they were more bothered about the power tariff than its availability. The decision to offer lower power rates to new industries in Vidarbha is threatening their very existence, they claimed, and neither MSEDCL nor the state government offered any relief on Monday.
Chief minister Prithviraj Chavan categorically denied any possibility of bringing down industrial power tariff. He contended that the state provided heavily subsidized power to farmers and poor consumers, and this subsidy had to be borne partly by industrialists. “There is little chance of reducing the subsidy, and there is no other sector to share the burden,” he told mediapersons.
MSEDCL managing director Ajoy Mehta, who was chairing a session on power and mining sectors, expressed similar views. He contended that the state’s industries were not at a loss while paying a higher rate for power. He said that they were enjoying uninterrupted supply, which many states were not in a position to provide.
“There are around a crore consumers who use less than 100 units, which means they are the poorest of the poor, using bare minimum electricity. If their power rates are to be hiked then it is the government that will have to take this decision,” he said.
Explaining the economics of his company, Mehta said, “An outlay of Rs 10,000 crore is required to supply cheap power to these sections. A sizeable portion of this subsidy is generated by hiking rates for industrial and commercial users. So, we don’t have much of a choice.”
Mehta also feels that green power should be supplied to the rich as only they can afford it and a policy decision was needed in this regard. “Green power too is getting costly, especially from wind mills, which is available in the monsoons, when the overall demand for power comes down otherwise.”
He also shared MSEDCL’s plan for keeping the state load-shedding free. “We have tied up for power till 2019. We will purchase electricity from both government and private players. If one supplier fails, there are several back ups,” the MSEDCL chief said.
Some industrial associations of the area – Butibori Manufacturers Association and MIDC industries associations of Kalmeshwar, Hingna and Chandrapur – had urged CM Chavan and Mehta to reduce power tariff for existing industries of Vidarbha too. They contended that if new industries got power at cheaper rates the older industries would be wiped out from the local market.
RB Goenka of Vidarbha Industries Association (VIA) later told the media that industries had been dealt a big blow as Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission (MERC) had hiked open access surcharge payable to MSEDCL. “MSEDCL is not allowing open access from power exchanges. In bilateral transactions, the new rates of surcharge will make open access unviable. Government must think about the existing units too,” he said.