In some tough talk with the Chandigarh electricity department, the Joint Electricity Regulatory Commission (JERC) that covers union territories has issued directions for replacing all non-functional and mechanical meters with electronic meters at the earliest. The move is aimed at cutting losses.
There are nearly 2 lakh consumers in different categories in the UT, 1.75 lakh of them in the domestic bracket. In all, meters of around 10,000 consumers are not functional, while around 50,000 mechanical ones need to be upgraded.
Rules say the department has to provide meters for a new connection or as replacement for defective equipment, but that has not been done. Worse, the department’s attempts to invite tenders for purchase of new meters in the past three years have failed to yield any result.
Consumers with defective meters are now billed on the basis of their average consumption in the past, “hence the actual consumption is not recorded, adding to losses,” conceded UT superintending engineer MP Singh. The Chandigarh administration has been struggling to cut its transmission and distribution (T&D) loss, which stands at 21%, while guidelines say it should not be over 15%.
“Due to technical reasons, tenders invited for purchase of around 30,000 meters in the past three years have failed to materlise,” said MP Singh. He added that the department was purchasing meters from the directorate general of supplies and disposals, which is a central purchase and quality assurance organisation of the union government; but the number has fallen short of requirement.
Taking suo moto notice of the Chandigarh department not complying with JERC Regulations 2010 on meter reading and billing, the regulatory commission has issued orders to replace the non-working meters and also submit a report, action plan and roadmap on replacing mechanical meters with electronic meters in a phased manner. The commission has stated that non-compliance of the order would be taken seriously.
UT Powermen Union’s general secretary Gopal Dutt Joshi said, “The administration should purchase meters at the earliest, as delay is leading to losses. Besides meters, the department is also grappling with a shortage of basic items such as cables, insulators, tube-holders and starters.”