Amid concerns that the lockdown can potentially impair the ability of consumers to pay electricity dues, and in turn, further restrict the ability of financially squeezed power distribution companies (Discoms) to meet financial obligations, the union government has finalised a slew of relief measures for the sector, said a top official familiar with the development.
These measures include a three-month moratorium on Discoms making payment to generating companies (Gencos) and transmission, and no penalty on late payment. The ministry is also working to ensure to ensure adequate supply of coal to prevent a possible disruption in electricity supply.
Union power minister RK Singh said the ministry is committed to ensure 24×7 electricity supply during lockdown. “Despite the lockdown imposed to contain the spread of the COVID 19 pandemic, the whole workforce of the power sector — generation, transmission, distribution and system operations — is working round the clock to keep all homes and establishments lit,” Singh said.
The ministry has issued directions that, till May 31, the payment security mechanism to be maintained by the Discoms with the Gencos for dispatch of power will be reduced by 50%. Directions have been issued by the ministry to the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC) to provide a moratorium of three months to Discoms to make payments to generating companies and transmission licensees, and not to levy penal rates of late payment surcharge. State Governments are being requested to issue similar directions to State Electricity Regulatory Commissions.
The lockdown has affected consumer payment of their dues to the Discoms. This has affected the liquidity position of the Discoms, thereby impairing their ability to pay to the generating and transmission companies. To address the liquidity problems of the Discoms, Singh has directed Generation/ Transmission Companies to continue supply/transmission of electricity even to Discoms which have large outstanding dues. “During the present emergency there will be no curtailment of supply to any DISCOM,” the power ministry has directed.
Around 70% of power generation is from coal based power plants. In order to maintain the continuity of supply of coal by domestic coal companies and transportation by railways, the ministry is in touch with the ministries of railways and coal.
On an average, more than 22,000 wagons of coal were loaded per day and 1,400 wagons of food grains daily. The national carrier has loaded 1,60,000 wagons with goods over the past four days, with nearly 26,000 of them carrying essential items on priority, including grains, vegetables, fruits, salt, edible oil, sugar, milk, coal and petroleum products.