Provisional power bills to commercial users on fixed charges, taxes
The Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission (DERC) has directed private distribution companies to issue provisional bills to non-domestic consumers only on the fixed charges and taxes, following complaints of inflated electricity bills.
This means that industrial, commercial and other non-domestic connections will not be charged on the basis of their consumption or energy units. This, however, will be applicable only on those who are issued provisional bills.
Before this order, these bills were based on the readings of the corresponding period of 2019. It means even if, say a store was shut during the lockdown and had no electricity consumption, it was to be billed on the basis of the power consumed during the same period last year.
According to directives issued by the power regulator last month, provisional billing now is to be done only in those cases where the meter could not be read or recorded by the discom during the billing cycle owing to the lockdown. Consumers who send the meter readings on their own get a rebate of Rs 20 and actual bills.
“The distribution licensee (discom) shall raise such provisional bill for the fixed charges and associated applicable charges only, considering the energy consumption as nil,” the DERC’s order stated.
Explaining the reason for the decision, the power regulator said consumers in the industrial and non-domestic tariff category had reported they were “facing difficulty” as the provisional bills issued by the discoms were “on a much higher side” since they were based on last year’s usage.
“Whereas, because of closure of units due to the prevailing Covid-19 pandemic and a direction of the government in this regard, the actual consumption of such units/ establishments is almost nil/negligible,” the order read.
Gauging revenue losses from the DERC’s order and with the lockdown rules relaxed, the discoms have now called their meter reading officials to re-start work.
“In support of the government’s measures to contain the spread of Covid-19, some BSES services including meter reading and bill distribution, had been curtailed. But now, adhering to all the necessary safety precautions, we have restarted meter reading for a certain section of our consumers. The exercise will be ramped up in the coming days so consumers can be given actual bills based on their consumption. Bills raised prior to DERC’s order have been reversed, so these complaints have already been addressed,” said a BSES spokesperson.
Discom Tata Power-DDL said it had issued provisional bills to around 1.25 lakh non-domestic consumers in north and northwest Delhi areas since April. “Out of 1.25 lakh, we have already revised the bills of around 90,000 consumers. Fortunately, the rest of our non-domestic consumers have smart meters or AMR systems because of which the actual bills got automatically generated even during the lockdown,” said a TPDDL spokesperson.
For the traders and factory owners, the DERC’s order was a welcome step, but it was not enough as some demanded a moratorium on power bill payments till June 30.
“This (DERC’s order) just partially resolves our problem. Industries have just started to open up. The industries have been closed for over two months. It is wrong to expect people to pay the electricity bills right away. The power regulator should issue a moratorium on payment of bill till June 30 for non-domestic connections,” said Raghuvansh Arora, vice-president of Apex Chamber of Commerce and Industries (ACCI).
Arora added, “When neighbouring states such as Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Rajasthan, Punjab can waive off fixed charges during the lockdown period and provide relief, why can’t it be done in Delhi? DERC, on the other hand, did just the opposite by imposing fixed charges and excusing us from paying the energy charges.”
A large number of industrial units in Narela and Bawana industrial areas, which has nearly 25,000 small and big industries, have been issued provisional bills by the discoms since April.
Rajesh Garg, secretary of Indian Council for Trade and Industries and a factory owner in Narela, said, “As business is at an all-time low now and with migrant labours going back home, it is becoming difficult to restart our units. The government should support the industrial and traders for the economy to get back to normal. The centre has provided financial assistance to discoms. As work will take time to pick up, we request the government to charge for actual consumption of electricity.”