UP is the first state to transmit the Center's payment relief for inconvenience to consumers

NEW DELHI: UP has become the first state to announce payment relief to power consumers, passing on the benefit given by the power ministry to distribution companies () with a view to ensuring uninterrupted during the lockdown when India is working from home.

State power minister on Wednesday extended the payment period to April 30 for bills generated generated between March 1 and April 14. He also waived surcharge on late payments. Together, the decisions will especially give domestic and commercial establishments a much-needed breather.

TOI had on March 29 said the financial package for cash-strapped discoms approved by power minister R K Singh will lead to similar relief for consumers. More and more states are expected to follow in UP’s footsteps as they complete the regulatory formalities.

The package for discoms said they will continue to get power even if they owe money to generation companies (gencos) or transmission utilities (transcos). Discoms will also not be charged late payment penalty during this period and will have to open letters of credit (LCs) with banks only for 50% of power they intend to draw from the grid instead of 100%. Simultaneously, and transcos have been barred from pulling the plug on discoms over pending bills, irrespective of the outstanding amount till June 30.

The ministry requested that the package for central public services be implemented. States were asked to issue similar directives to their regulators for discoms, which has resulted in relief for consumers.

Without such a package, discoms would have been forced to curtail supply because of their inability to open LCs for 100% of power requirement as the lockdown-induced loss of high-paying industrial/commercial consumers and domestic bill collection have hit revenue. The ministry’s PRAAPTI portal puts total dues of discoms to gencos at Rs 85,527 crore and overdue amount at Rs 75,930 crore till the end of December.

Uninterrupted power supply has been a key political plank for the ruling BJP. It has attained added importance in the current work-from-home scenario. But for discoms, domestic supply is a loss-making proposition due to low tariffs and theft, which they balance by charging industrial/commercial consumers more.

According to Singh, the whole workforce of the power sector -- generation, transmission, distribution and system operations -- is committed to maintaining 24X7 supply and working round the clock to ensure it. The ministry is also working closely with the railway and coal ministries, which fuels 70% of generation in the country, for uninterrupted fuel supply to power stations.