There could be some relief for domestic consumers of electricity from inflated electricity bills following a review petition filed on Thursday by the Mumbai Grahak Panchayat (MGP) and others before the Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission (MERC) on the imposition of Load Management Charge (LMC).
Speaking to HT, Ashok Pendse who looks after energy related matters in the MGP said they had moved the petition seeking relief on several grounds including the plea to spare residential consumers. Pendse said since the petition had just been moved, there was a lot of paper work to sift through and that he could only provide the exact grounds of relief only on Friday. But this correspondent learnt that the petition has also appealed to MERC to reduce the rates as spelled out under the LMC and the period over which it should be charged. MERC, said reliable sources in the regulatory body, is now expected to rule on the petition within a few days.
Already, the MERC has issued a clarification in an order dated November 9 wherein it has granted relief to certain sections of electricity consumers, more so in the case of tenants staying in leased or rented houses and for "sick" industries. (See Box)
The MERC, a regulatory body, had asked all the power supply companies including Reliance Energy Ltd (REL) and BEST to impose the LMC in order to bring in discipline in the use of electricity in Mumbai and suburbs from October due to the gap of over 4000 MW between demand and supply. Earlier too, in 2004, for two months beginning May, MERC had asked power utility companies to impose a similar LMC.
In simple terms, MERC has introduced the concept of LMC and Load Management Rebate (LMB) as a kind of a carrot-and-stick measure for power consumers. While the LMC is a "fine" for those customers using excessive electricity, the LMB is an "incentive" and offers rebates to power conscious consumers.
While the MERC has made it mandatory for the LMC to be imposed by all power utility companies, REL has, since the start of November, faced a lot of flak from its consumers because of this. Many customers have complained that the October bills reflect amounts which are double than their regular electricity bills. The issue has also got politicised with the Shiv Sena deciding to take out a morcha to REL office. Consumers were of the view that REL was recovering its Additional Energy Charge (AEC) which pertains to previous dues, despite promising to keep that in abeyance.
In early October, MERC had, besides permitting a hike in power tariffs of all utility companies, also allowed REL to recover the AEC towards previous Rs 350 crore given as subsidies. Later, after howls of protests, REL had decided not to collect the AEC and had the MERC for a review of its decision.
REL Executive Director Lalit Jalan told HT on Thursday that consumers were getting confused between the LMC and AEC. "We had already announced that we would not be collecting the AEC and we are not doing so. On the LMC, as a power utility company, have no say at all over its imposition, which is a disciplinary step initiated by the MERC."
When asked about the review petition by the MGP, Jalan said, "We have got a lot of representatives from upset customers complaining about the high charges. Since the review petition has been filed, it is now for the regulatory body to take a view," he said.