Poll relief: Power tariff hike unlikely

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With an eye on the Assembly elections, the state government is planning to urge the Himachal Pradesh State Electricity Regulatory Commission (HPSERC) not to recommend any hike in the power tariff. If the hike in tariff is announced, the Congress regime, in a bid to woo voters, could bear this burden itself.

Power-tariffAn indication to this effect was given by Power Minister Sujan Singh Pathania here today. However, it is learnt that the HP State Electricity Board (HPSEB) has recommended a hike of 30 per cent in the power tariff this year but it is the HPSERC which will take the final call after holding a public hearing.

There are 16 lakh power consumers in the state. Being the election year, it was being expected that there would be a tax-free Budget as has been the case in the past but the power consumers can now be relaxed that there will be no additional burden on them even if it was nominal. Even though the hike in tariff made by the HPSERC is very nominal, the Congress regime in a bid to woo voters could bear this burden itself, notwithstanding its own poor financial health.

A budgetary provision of Rs 450 crore against Rs 410 crore in 2016-17 has been made in this year’s Budget for subsidy to domestic consumers. “We will request the HPSERC not to recommend any hike in the power tariff but if it still insists, the government will not put any burden on the consumers and provide a subsidy to cover the enhanced power tariff,” said Pathania.

The hike in power tariff, both for domestic and industrial consumers, is made by the HPSERC after seeking the opinion of the HPSEB and public suggestions are also invited.

Last year too, though the HPSEB had sought a hike of almost 33 per cent, a mere 3.5 per cent increase in the tariff was allowed by the HPSERC. The hike that was made last year for 2016-17 was 15 to 20 paise per unit for domestic consumers in the higher slabs.

The hike was to generate additional revenue of Rs 154.48 crore to the state exchequer. The lifeline consumers in the 0-60 units bracket had been spared of any burden. The tariff had remained unchanged for the industrial consumers.

Sources in the HPSEB confirmed that though they had sought a hike of almost 30 per cent to meet their revenue requirement, as was the case in the past, not much of hike was being expected.

As far as last year’s situation is concerned, the revenue required by the HPSEB is to the tune of Rs 4,966.05 crore against a total income of Rs 4,811.58 crore. The board had projected a revenue gap of Rs 1,556.70 crore and had sought a 33 per cent hike.

Story: The Tribune

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