A group of employee associations of the Meghalaya Electricity Corporation Ltd (MeECL) filed a petition with the Meghalaya State Electricity Regulatory Commission (MeSERC) seeking the revocation of its order of October 19 in which it had okayed selling power to Byrnihat Industries Association (BIA) at the discounted rate of Rs 4.9 per kilo volt ampere (kVA).
This order had caused misgivings among knowledgeable circles about the efficiency of the top management of the MeECL and its subsidiary, the Meghalaya Power Distribution Corporation Ltd (MePDCL), which had actually signed the contentious memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the BIA.
The petition was handed over to the secretary of the MeSRC, E Slong, who received it with the assurance that it would be put up before the commission for a speedy hearing. He also suggested that the team of employees meet the Chairman, PW Ingty, and apprised him about their concerns which the workers did.
The various associations included the MeECL Engineers Association (MEA), Association of Power Engineers (AOPE), MeECL Accounts Association (MAA) and Meghalaya Power Civil Engineers Association (MPCEA).
When contacted they told Highland Post that the said deal is not at all beneficial for Meghalaya or the consumers and least of all for the MeECL and its subsidiaries who are already drowning in a sea of debt without taking on the added responsibility of supplying power at a subsidized rate of Rs 4.9 per kVA when the initial rate proposed had been Rs 6. This discount would lead to a massive loss for the corporation and be another noose tied round the company’s neck for the three years as stipulated in the MoU.
The petition said that the MeECL employees are all affected because the order determining the special tariff for the industrial consumers would negatively impact the earnings of the company. The order itself has made contradictory statements, on the one hand confirming that fixed charges remain for industrial consumers, while on the other hand saying that there are no fixed charges for the BIA. Then it goes on to say that the BIA will be charged Rs 4.9 “inclusive of demand charges” for an initial period of three years. The other justifications for taking this decision appear not to have been thought through and unless this order is revoked there will be even more problems in the future for the corporation and its subsidiaries, the workers’ associations said.
The controversial concession was given to the BIA only because the MeECL management felt that this would help them out of another noose of debt, which they had signed up to in 2007, by which Meghalaya had agreed to draw 53 megawatts of power (later enhanced to 87 MW) for which a fixed charge amounting to Rs 17 crore per month has to be paid whether the electricity is actually drawn and used or not.
The NTPC, formerly known as National Thermal Power Corporation but now just known by its initials, had begun regulating electricity supply to Meghalaya since 2017 after the state proved unable to pay the amount agreed to. Instead of seeking ways and means to rid itself of this agreement, the MeECL management and the Power Department took the decision of trying to sell on the NTPC power, for which it has to pay Rs 6.2 per unit, to BIA at Rs 4.9 to at least meet some of the cost of the NTPC electricity it has a contract to purchase.
Despite cutting its losses this way, the MeECL can ill afford any sort of loss at a time when the public utility is struggling to survive through all the bad decisions of the past, the union leaders said.
Highland Post had already filed a report under the headline “Is MePDCL shortselling itself to BIA?” on November 1 wherein these apprehensions, which are a matter of concern for the state’s consumers who will have to pay for these bad deals made by the government and the management of these state corporations, were raised.