Following the recently announced draft first amendment to the regulations dealing with transmission of open access in the state by the Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission (MERC), it has done the same for the distribution part of the open access system.

With every state modifying their open access policies and, it has become increasingly difficult to keep a tab on the constant changes and the variety of regulations applicable or under consideration in various states. In most cases, the policies are more stringent, making it harder for consumers to use open access.

These regulations will come into force from the date of their publication in the official gazette. The draft is up for comments and suggestions up to April 01, 2019.

Under the amendments, a consumer with a contract demand of 1 MVA and above with a DISCOM will be eligible for open access.

A partial open access consumer will be allowed to take advantage of open access for capacity not exceeding the existing contracted demand. However, a fully open access consumer can benefit open access for capacity not exceeding its approved load.

There is a penalty if a consumer fails to achieve the maximum demand in any month. In such a case, the DISCOM will be entitled to a penalty equal to two times the wheeling charges for the financial year or part of the year for which consumer has failed to achieve maximum demand.

Consumers intending to install rooftop solar systems can benefit from open access. In such cases, the credit for solar generation will be adjusted on a gross metering basis for the period for which open access is utilized.

If a consumer applies for long-term, medium-term or short-term open access to obtain supply from a generating company or through power exchange, the local DISCOM will reduce the contract demand of the consumer to the extent of the allowed amount of electricity sought to be transferred through open access. Contract demand in case of consumer utilizing short-term open access will be restored to its original contract demand after the period of short-term open access is over.

Based on the amendments, the duration of short-term open access will be a month, medium-term open access will be a minimum three months and a maximum five years, and long-term open access will be more than seven years.

Partial open access consumer will need to pay transmission charges to the DISCOM. Applicable short-term open access charges in case of repeated short-term open access transactions will be increased by a multiplication factor of 1.25, 1.5, and 2.0 respectively for every second, third, and fourth such transaction during a financial year. Beyond that, the charges for such transactions will be fixed at two times of the approved short-term open access charges.

For renewable energy based medium-term open access and long-term open access transactions, the applicable transmission charges will continue to be on per unit basis, except that it will be equivalent to two times the approved short-term open access charges.

Wheeling charges will not be levied in cases where consumers or generating stations are connected to the transmission system directly or by using dedicated lines owned by the consumer or generating station for point to point transmission or wheeling of power from generating station to load center without any interconnection with the distribution system. For the adjustment of energy drawl by an open access consumer, renewable energy generating sources will be given first preference.

In case more energy is injected into the grid, exceeding what is scheduled by the generating company, such over injection will be settled by the DISCOM. If such over-injection is detrimental to the grid, the open access generating company will pay to the state pool. Any injection below that schedule by the open access generating company will be met from the grid and will be paid for by that entity to the DISCOM. The unutilized banked energy at the end of the month, limited to 10 percent of the actual total generation by such renewable energy generator in such month, will be considered as a deemed purchase by the DISCOM.

The open access market across India has been shrinking, and it may not be long before this market becomes insignificant unless there is a significant reversal in policy direction.