Landmark Ruling: Supreme Court of India Clarifies Criteria for Captive Power Users, Reshaping the Energy Landscape

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In a recent ruling, the Supreme Court of India has issued a crucial clarification regarding the classification of captive power users in the country. The ruling has significant implications for those involved in power generation and consumption, particularly in the context of captive power projects.


According to the Supreme Court’s decision, an entity that owns a 26% stake in a captive power-generating project and consumes at least 51% of the electricity generated can be considered a captive user. This ruling provides clarity on the ownership and consumption requirements for this classification.


Furthermore, when a group of individuals collectively constitutes captive users, they must jointly hold a minimum ownership stake of 26% in the project and consume at least 51% of the electricity generated annually. This collective approach ensures that the benefits granted to captive users are distributed equitably among the group members.


The Court also highlighted that the ownership threshold of 26% must be maintained consistently throughout the calendar year to meet the criteria. Additionally, if members of a cooperative society collectively consume more than 51% of the electricity generated, the project qualifies as a captive generating project, and the society’s members are regarded as captive users.

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This clarification serves to prevent misuse or gaming of the rules, ensuring that the benefits intended for captive users under the Electricity Act are provided only to those who genuinely meet the criteria.

The ruling also addresses the role of Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs) in power projects. It stipulates that SPVs, which primarily exist to own, operate, and maintain generating stations, cannot independently consume the electricity produced. However, shareholders and users of an SPV-established captive generating project must meet the ownership and consumption criteria to qualify as captive users.

In summary, the Supreme Court’s ruling has clarified the rules governing captive power users, ensuring transparency and preventing misuse, while also shedding light on the role of SPVs in the power generation landscape. The decision is expected to have a substantial impact on the energy sector in India.

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