Three power distribution companies - Reliance Infrastructure, Tata Power Company and BrihanMumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) - have asked the regulator for a hike up to 1,900% of the existing rates in several service charges. At the same time, Reliance and Tata have also asked for a reduction in charges for some services.
The companies have submitted the demands before the Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission (MERC), which has admitted their petitions and would decide on the matter after hearing consumers on November 29.
The hike, if approved, will affect around 40 lakh existing consumers, who seek service from the companies, and also potential consumers who wish to change their supplier and want a new connection.
The three companies were unanimous in justifying the proposed hikes saying the cost of materials and man power has increased tremendously over the years. Consumer bodies and individual consumer representatives are expected to counter the hike.
"There should be a rationale in demanding such hikes. The cost of technology and equipment goes down with time. If cost of manpower has gone up, the regulator should check the increase in salary bills [of the three companies] and determine charges in accordance with that," said consumer representative Sandeep N Ohri.
Island city utility BEST, which has asked for a greater hike as compared to other utilities, has demanded a 1,900% hike for relocation of three-phase CT-operated meters on consumer's request. Seeking new connection from BEST will also cost more. Ohri termed BEST's move as exploitation of its monopoly in the island city. "It seems BEST does not want consumers to relocate their meters or get them tested because the company has the highest number of erroneous meter readings."
Tata proposes to charge less for new meters in certain consumer categories, while Reliance does not want consumers to pay at all for testing meters for their accuracy at respective sites. The two utilities are competitors in the suburbs. However, all companies have asked for an increase in charges to test erroneous meters in their laboratories.