DISCOMs Must Ensure 24/7 Power Supply to Control Air Pollution: Ministry of Power
DISCOMs should provide temporary power connections for construction activities
The Ministry of Power has issued a draft proposal for amending the Electricity Act, 2021 to ensure that distribution companies (DISCOMs) provide round-the-clock uninterrupted power supply to all consumers and prevent the need for the use of diesel generators.
The draft proposal is open for comments up to October 21, 2021. The Ministry has proposed the amendments in light of increasing levels of air pollution in the metros and big cities.
In 2019, India launched a program to battle the increasing level of pollutants in the air. The National Clean Air Program (NCAP) is a time-bound national-level strategy for pan-India implementation to tackle the rising air pollution problem across the country. City-specific action plans are formulated for 102 non-attainment cities identified for implementing mitigation actions under the new program.
Despite the clean air initiatives, Delhi reported particulate matter (PM)2.5 levels at 356, while the PM10 levels touched 380, well above the hazardous limits. Delhi remains one of the most polluted cities in the world.
According to the MoP’s proposed amendments, state electricity regulatory commissions have to give the trajectory of System Average Interruption Frequency Index (SAIFI) and System Average Interruption Duration Index (SAIDI) for the cities. SAIFI is the average number of times that a power consumer experiences an outage during the year. SAIDI is a description of the length of time all consumers would have been out of power. This is if the total number of hours out of service in a year were to be shared (measured in minutes).
The Commissions can also consider a separate reliability charge for DISCOMs if they need funds to augment infrastructure to ensure consistent power for consumers. If DISCOMs are unable to meet the defined standards, Commissions have to make penalty provisions.
In another proposal, the Ministry said that DISCOMs should provide temporary power connection through a prepayment meter to consumers within 48 hours for construction activities or any temporary usage. This will avoid the use of diesel-generating sets for short-term use.
The draft said consumers, who use diesel-generating sets as a power backup, should shift towards clean energy technologies like renewable energy with battery storage in the next five years or according to a timeline set by the state commissions.
Proposals to penalize DISCOMs for unscheduled power cuts have been made earlier too. Back in 2019, Union Power Minister R K Singh had spoken about penalties for voluntary load shedding by DISCOMs, except in cases of technical faults or acts of God.
Harsh Shukla is a staff reporter at Mercom India. Previously with Indian Express, he has covered general interest stories. He holds a Masters Degree in Journalism from Symbiosis Institute of Media and Communication, Pune.