Lockdown effect: Industries, commercial consumers seek waiver of fixed power charges

Kolkata, May 6 (PTI) At a time when the power utilities in West Bengal are facing 20-40 per cent less demand because of Covid-19 triggered lockdown, their high-value consumers have demanded waiver of 'fixed charges' component of the bill, officials said on Wednesday.

Industrial and commercial consumers have written to the state power regulator in this regard, while the power utilities said if the demand is met, it will destabilise them financially.

'We demanded waiver of fixed charges for a year. To overcome this coronavirus crisis, we want to pay only what we consume,' Steel Re-rolling Mills Association chairman Vivek Adukia told PTI.

An electricity bill has two components - fixed and variable. While the fixed charge remains the same every month, the variable charge is calculated as per consumption.

'The next one year will continue to remain challenging and uncertain for the industry for factors like demand and future effect of the lockdown on manufacturing facility and its employees,' Adukia said.

He claimed that state governments such as Maharashtra and Punjab have offered such benefit to their industrial and commercial consumers.

Other industry bodies like West Bengal Iron and Steel Welfare Association, Indian Foundry Association, DVC Consumers Association and the Hooghly Chamber of Commerce have also sought the waiver of fixed charges.

In cities, malls and large commercial establishments too came out with a similar demand, saying the situation calls for the 'force majure' clause which provides temporary reprieve to a party from performing its contractual obligations because of some event can be neither anticipated nor controlled.

A West Bengal Electricity Regulatory Commission official said petitions regarding waiver of fixed charges have reached them.

According to power sector officials, the fixed charges component in a utility's revenue could be as high as one- third.

Sources in the power utilities said waiving of fixed charges is not possible as even they have similar financial obligations with electricity generators.

In case of private sector CESC, the demand has slumped by 30 per cent during the lockdown while the figure is 20-25 for state utility West Bengal Electricity Distribution Company Ltd. The demand has nosedived by 40 per cent for Damodar Valley Corporation. PTI BSM NN NN