M/s Green Energy Association, a non-profit organization with its head office in Mumbai, focuses on development of renewable energy including solar energy.
They filed a Petition on 28 January, 2014 praying for directions against Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Co. Ltd [MSEDCL] to comply with provisions of the Electricity Act, 2003 and MERC (Distribution Open Access) Regulations, 2005 and issue Open Access permissions to the members of the Petitioner pursuant to their respective applications.
Some of the pending open access projects include:
The Petitioner, 36 members in the State of Maharashtra, had set up solar PV power plants within the state with the inclination to sell power to third parties for which PPAs were also signed. They then had sought Open Access permission from MSEDCL and filed requisite applications.
But these applications have been pending for more than 121 days, and more than 290 days in some cases; thereby creating a financial impact on the petitioners [solar power developers].
What has been further frustrating for the developers is that MSEDCL failed to inform the applicants within what time frame the said Open Access permissions would be issued or reasons for such inordinate delays.
In response, MSEDCL has pointed out that has submitted that it has always promoted Renewable Energy (RE) generation and does not have any objection/reservation for solar power generation. MSEDCL has been allowing Open Access permissions to consumers availing power supply from various other renewable sources such as Wind, Bagasse, Biomass, Small Hydro Generators and the same is in accordance with the directions of the Commission. The Commission has issued broad directives/guidelines in case of Open Access for these type of RE generators.
But due to absence of any guidelines regarding Open Access through solar generator, it is not clear whether to pass the benefits such as Energy Banking, Non reduction of Contract demand and Concessional cross subsidy surcharge to solar projects as is being done with other Renewable Energy Projects.
MAHARASHTRA ELECTRICITY REGULATORY COMMISSION’s Analysis:
After hearing the parties, the Commission analyzed following issues:
1. Open Access permission through solar generator as single source and
2. Open Access permission through more than one source
Issue No.1: Open Access permission through solar generator as single source:-
The Commission was of the opinion that Open Access is the right of the consumers and it is casted upon by the Electricity Act, 2003. The Electricity Act, 2003 has defined the Open Access as non discriminatory provisions for use of transmission lines or distribution system or associated facilities by any licensee or consumer or person engaged in generation.
The plain reading of Section 2(47) and Section 42 (2) of the Electricity Act, 2003 indicates that MSEDCL cannot discriminate amongst different RE sources. Energy is coming from whatever source, it is inject in the system as a Unit. The Commission observes that MSEDCL has allowed open access permission for sale of solar energy to BEST Utility (eight Nos. of generators has been also permitted Open Access permission for sale of solar energy to Utility (BEST),) for certain period. The Commission disagreed with MSEDCL submission that it delayed the Open Access permission on absence of guidelines/policy for Open Access through solar generator.
In view of above the Commission directed MSEDCL, on 6th May 2014, to allow the Open Access through solar generator as single source. The Commission also directed MSEDCL to continue the procedures followed for allowing Open Access permissions through RE generators during previous financial year.
Issue No.2: Open Access permission through more than one source:-
MSEDCL submitted that MERC (Distribution Open Access) Regulations, 2005 do not provide for wheeling of power under Open Access from more than one generating company/ source. MSEDCL submitted that there are operational and billing difficulties for allowing Open Access from more than one source.
The Commission, on 6th May 2014, observed that MSEDCL has denied Open Access permission for sourcing power from more than one source on the ground of operational and billing difficulties which cannot be ignored.
In view of above, the Commission said that in the present circumstances it is not appropriate to allow Open Access permission through more than one source without considering all relevant factors including operational and billing difficulties involved in it and framing it into proper Regulatory mechanism. The Commission is in the process of amendment of the existing MERC (Distribution Open Access) Regulations, 2005. The Commission shall endeavor to expedite the process of amendment of MERC (Distribution Open Access) Regulations, 2005 after incorporating the concerns raised by all stakeholders.