The Electricity (Amendment) Bill 2022 was introduced in Parliament Monday amid protests and later sent to the standing committee for further deliberation. Many power engineers protested the Bill across the country, in states like Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Rajasthan, and others.
The Electricity Amendment Bill 2022 kicked up a ruckus in India after its introduction in the Lok Sabha on Monday, August 8, during the Monsoon session of the Parliament. As many as 27 lakh power engineers raised their voices against the bill in hopes that it will be retracted by the government.
What is the Electricity Amendment Bill 2022?
The Electricity Amendment Bill 2022, which is being highly protested by power engineers, is aimed at allowing the privatization of electricity on the line of communication, which, according to the Centre, can create a steady power supply across the country.
This means that according to the bill, Section 42 of the Electricity Act will be amended, which means that it will grant non-discriminatory open access to the distribution network, allowing private companies to supply electricity, provided they get a license.
Under the new bill, Section 14 of the Electricity Act will also be amended, which means that distribution networks will be facilitated open-access usage, enabling competition and enhancing the efficiency of power supply across the country.
Under the Electricity Amendment Bill 2022, power consumers will be able to choose from multiple electricity providers, essentially like choosing telecom providers like Airtel, Vodafone, etc.
Objections to the Electricity (Amendment) Bill 2022
The federation claims that the universal service obligation will cover only the existing companies which will lead to indirect privatisation. The federation also fears that multiple licensees in urban areas will result in loss-making areas remaining underserved, and power cuts for want of bank guarantees will disrupt power supply, destabilise grids and burden ailing discoms.
Why are power engineers protesting against the bill?
All India Power Engineers Federation (AIPEF) has demanded that the Electricity Amendment Bill 2022 be referred to the power committee for wider consideration after massive protests from over 27 lakh power engineers from across the country.
The AIPEF has said that the bill is “misleading”, leading to state-run discoms incurring major losses. While speaking to PTI, the AIPEF spokesperson talked about the main reason why power engineers were protesting against the bill.
The Union government’s rationale
Government sources questioned the objections raised against the bill, stating that those objecting to the it have either not read it, didn’t understand it or didn’t want to understand it. The Union Government has maintained that no provision in the bill reduces powers of the states to regulate the power distribution sector, payment of power subsidy.
Citing Mumbai’s example, where multiple power licensees operate in the same area of supply, the government has indicated that multiple discoms can already exist in the same area and the bill only simplifies the process to ensure that competition leads to better operations and service.
The Centre has maintained that it had consulted every state and many associations in writing, including a separate written assurance to the Agriculture Ministry, that there is nothing anti-farmer in the bill. Rather, the government has said that the bill allows the use of additional cross-subsidy that is collected from industrial and commercial users in one area, for subsidising for the poor in other areas.
Stating that the Centre referred the bill to the standing committee to ensure more stakeholder consultation, government sources are maintaining that there hasn’t been any encroachment on the domain of states, this issue is in the concurrent list. The Centre has stressed on the need to strengthen the power transmission network and put up defenses to guard against cyber attacks.
With India aiming to achieve 50 percent of its installed power capacity from renewables by 2030, the government is of the view that the push for Renewable Purchase Obligations (RPOs) mentioned in the bill will augment India’s power demand, which is expected to double in the next eight years while moving to achieve green targets fixed as per the Paris and Glasgow Agreements. The government has accused a section of politicians distributing everything for free for “bringing the nation to ruin”, pointing out that such politicians aren’t spending money from their pocket but from the exchequer.