The Ministry of Power (MoP) has come out with draft electricity rules 2020 aimed at streamlining the process of supply of electricity to consumers by distribution licensees (DISCOMs).
The rules prescribe that DISCOMs supply power to consumers 24X7, although there could be lower hours of supply specified for agricultural consumers.
The ministry has invited comments and suggestions from all the stakeholders by September 30, 2020.
Consumer as Prosumer
Per the new rules, consumers will have the right to set up renewable energy generating projects, including rooftop solar projects, either by themselves or through a service provider.
Consumers can set up renewable energy generating projects in their premises, apart from rooftop projects, but the capacity should not exceed the limit prescribed by the Commission.
The Commission will lay down rules for the grid-connected rooftop solar systems within six months of the notification of these rules.
Further, rooftop solar projects of capacity up to 5 kW will be applicable for net metering, and projects above 5 kW will be eligible for gross metering.
DISCOMs as facilitators
DISCOMs are instructed to take every step to streamline the process of setting up of renewable energy generating projects in the premises of prosumers.
This would include the creation of an online portal for receiving applications, installation, interconnection, and metering for the setting up of distributed renewable energy projects.
The technical feasibility study should be completed within 20 days, and the outcome of the study should be made available to the applicant.
DISCOMs need to sign the connection agreement, install the meter, and commission the system within 30 days from the date of submission of the installation certificate by the consumer.
DISCOMs penalized for delay
The timeline specified for setting up solar systems by the Commission should be adhered to by the distribution licensee. However, in case of a delay, the distribution licensee will be liable to pay compensation of ₹500 (~$6.8) per day for each day of the default to the consumer.
The energy generated must be adjusted against the energy consumed or the bill amount, depending on whether it is a net metering or gross metering.
Further, the ministry proposed that the distribution licensee should also create a consumer grievance redressal forum. It should be the responsibility of the distribution licensee to address the grievances in thirty days and, in any case, not exceed 45 days from the date of its receipt registration. In case the complaints are not resolved in the specified time, the consumers can approach the ‘ombudsman.’ An ombudsman is an official, appointed by the government, who investigates complaints (usually lodged by private citizens) against financial institutions or government departments and attempts to address the concerns either by mediation or by making recommendations.
The ministry added that the distribution licensees should prepare the bill every billing cycle based on the actual meter reading, and it should be delivered to the consumer at least ten days before the due date of payment. If the bill is furnished with a delay of 60 days or more, the consumer will be given a rebate of 2% to 5%.
Any bill amount of more than ₹1,000 (~$13.59) should be paid online. A suitable rebate will be given to such consumers.
All new electricity connections must be accompanied by a smart prepayment meter (read remotely) or a prepayment meter. Any exception to this will have to be approved by the Commission.
The draft also adds that DISCOMs should work towards creating awareness for the services offered and its advantages through various mediums.
Earlier this year, another government order stressed that though distribution companies can take the help of state nodal agencies for implementing the rooftop solar program, they have to be at the forefront of its implementation process. The government circular clarified that DISCOMs would be responsible for developing a dedicated online portal where a consumer can apply, and all the approvals can be given in time with transparency. They would also be responsible for its integration with the SPIN portal of the MNRE. Earlier, such a portal was available with most state nodal agencies.
Previously, Mercom had reported that MoP had issued a revised proposal for amendments to the Electricity Act 2003. In the revised proposal, the ministry had included ample provisions for renewable energy generation and distribution.
Rakesh is a staff reporter at Mercom India. Prior to joining Mercom, he worked in many roles as a business correspondent, assistant editor, senior content writer, and sub-editor with bcfocus.com, CIOReview/Silicon India, Verbinden Communication, and Bangalore Bias. Rakesh holds a Bachelor’s degree in English from Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU). More articles from Rakesh Ranjan.