The Union Ministry of Power on Monday issued a set of rules to ensure the rights of power consumers in the country.
“These rules emanate from the conviction that the power systems exist to serve the consumers and the consumers have rights to get the services and reliable, quality electricity,” said Union Power Minister RK Singh while issuing the rules on Monday.
“Distribution companies across the country are monopolies – whether government or private – and the consumer has no alternative – therefore it was necessary that the consumers’ rights be laid down in Rules and a system for enforcement of these rights be put in place,” he added.
As per the new rules, there will be penalties for power distribution utilities (discoms) for not maintaining mandated standards of services under the Electricity (Rights of consumers) Rules.
It is the duty of every distribution licensee to supply electricity on request made by an owner or occupier of any premises in line with the provisions of the Electricity Act, said the new rules.
It is the right of consumers to have minimum standards of service for supply of electricity from the distribution licensee, it says.
The rules have made way for transparent, simple and time-bound processes for release of new connection and modification in existing connection.
Now, the applicant for electricity connection has option for online application.
Besides, the discoms would have to provide or modify an electricity connection within a maximum time period of seven days in metro cities, 15 days in other municipal areas and 30 days in rural areas.
According to the Electricity (Rights of consumers) Rules, no connection shall be given without a metre and it shall be the smart pre-payment meter or pre-payment meter.
There would be provision for testing of metres as wells replacement of defective or burnt or stolen ones, it says.
The rules also provide for transparency in applicable consumer tariff and bills.
Under the rules, the consumer shall have the option to pay bills online or offline.
There would also be provision for advance payment of bills.
To ensure the reliability of supply, the discoms shall supply 24×7 power to all consumers.
However, the Commission (power regulator) may specify lower hours of supply for some categories of consumers like agriculture.
Discoms are also mandated to put in place a mechanism, preferably with automated tools to the extent possible, for monitoring and restoring outages.
There would a new category of consumers who would generate power also (prosumer).
The rules say that the prosumers will maintain consumer status and have the same rights as the general consumer, they will also have right to set up Renewable Energy (RE) generation unit including rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) systems – either by himself or through a service provider.
The rules provide for net metering for loads up to ten kW and for gross metering for loads above ten kW.
These rules also provide that the commission (power regulator) shall notify the standards of performance for the distribution licensees.
The compensation amount would be paid to the consumers by the discoms for violation of standards of performance.
Automatic compensation shall be paid to consumers for which parameters on standards of performance can be monitored remotely.
The standards of performance for which the compensation is required to be paid by discoms include no supply to a consumer beyond a particular duration which would be specified by the commission (regulator).
The discoms would have to pay compensation for number of interruptions in supply beyond the limits.
The discoms performance would be monitored on the basis of time taken for connection, disconnection, reconnection, shifting; time taken for change in consumer category, load; time taken for change in consumer details; time taken for replacement of defective meters; time period within which bills are to be served, time period of resolving voltage related complaints; and bill related complaints.
The discoms will pay penalty to consumer for breaching time limits for delivery of services set by the commission.
The discoms would have to set up a centralised 24×7 toll-free call centre and shall endeavour to provide all services through a common Customer Relation Manager (CRM) System to get a unified view.
There Consumer Grievance Redressal Forum (CGRF) which, would include consumer and prosumer representatives.
Under the rules the consumer grievance redressal has been made easy by making it multi-layered and the number of consumer’s representatives have been increased from one to four.
The licensee shall specify the time within which various types of grievances by the different levels of the forums are to be resolved.
Maximum timeline of 45 days is specified for grievance redressal under the rules.
The rules provide for use of online access to various services such as application submission, monitoring status of application, payment of bills, status of complaints raised ,etc., to consumers through its website, web portal, mobile app and its various designated offices area-wise.
The discoms shall provide all services such as application submission, payment of bills, etc., to senior citizens at their door-steps.
The details of scheduled power outages shall be informed to the consumers.
In case of unplanned outage or fault, immediate intimation shall be given to the consumers through SMS or by any other electronic mode along with estimated time for restoration.