Use of gadgets, summer led to inflated power bills: ExpertsUpdated: Jul 06, 2020 23:42 IST
An increasing number of citizens and celebrities have complained about ‘inflated bills’ received in June, resulting in a social media outrage post the announcement of unlock 1.0. In some cases, the bills are two-three times more than the average bill of the household. However, utility companies and experts maintain that the bills are higher owing to the suspension of meter-reading in March-end, more usage of electronic gadgets due to the lockdown and hot weather in the summer months of March, April and May.
“If you see the average demand in Mumbai during the day, in these months - it was around 1,800 megawatts (MW), which spiked to 2,400 MW between 11pm and 5am, when the air-conditioners were on,” said Ashok Pendse, a noted Mumbai-based power expert and a consumer representative at the Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission (MERC).
As per MERC guidelines, meter-reading was suspended at the end of March and utilities were asked to charge consumers based on the average of the preceding three months - December, January and February, which were winter months. “This effectively means that consumers underpaid in the months of April and May when consumption was high. And in June, when actual meter-reading began, the residual electricity amount was also taken into consideration,” said an official from the Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company Ltd (MSEDCL). During the lockdown period, only 2.32% consumers across the state were billed as per actual reading, data reveals.
Last week, MSEDCL also released a video, explaining the multiple reasons behind the high bills. The video shows that when all members of the household are at home, more gadgets are being used. The video shows people utilising chargers, laptops, air-conditioners and mixers, when in the house. “People should also remember that when your consumption is high, you are also charged at a higher slab,” Pendse said further.
For instance, if MSEDCL charges ₹4.91/unit for 0-100 units, it increases to ₹8.88/unit for 100-300 units and so forth.
A BJP MLA from Mumbai, who has been addressing complaints in his area since a month, said, “In my own house, all gadgets were in use throughout the day during the lockdown. People are not able to accept this fact, and their frustration, also a result of the lockdown, is pouring on social media. Owing to the lockdown and job losses, people’s income and spending capacity have also reduced.”
“There is a simple way to check if your bill is right,” says Pendse. “If you have received a bill where your consumption is 1,500 units, go and check your meter. If it is higher than 1,500 units, that means the bill is right, if it is at 1430 units, you can approach the utility to check the meter again. In any case, if your bill is more than double of the average for the period of March-May 2020, utilities are bound to give you an option to make payment in three easy monthly instalments,” Pendse explained.
MERC, in a directive issued to utilities, has also stated that utilities cannot disconnect power supply unless the grievances are resolved.