Amid the uproar on social media over significantly high electricity bills in Maharashtra, one of the power suppliers Adani Electricity has explained how it calculated the charges. It said that since meter readings were called off by Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission (MERC), the company based the bills for March, April and May on the average billing of the previous three months of December, January and February. Since electricity consumption is less during winter months, the average also fell resulting in low bills during the lockdown months before shooting up in June.
The clarifications from MERC and Adani Electricity came after netizens from the state took to social media to ask about the process behind the high electricity bills in the month of June. Actress Taapsee Pannu asked the company how the electricity bill could be Rs 36,000 when it was less than Rs 5,000 in April and May. Actress Renuka Shahane also took to Twitter to ask how her bill has spiked from Rs 5,510 in April to Rs 18,080 for May. She said that she was billed Rs 29,700 for May and June together.
And this one is for an apartment where no one stays n it’s only visited once in a week for cleaning purpose @Adani_Elec_Mum I am now worried if someone is actually using the apartment without our knowledge and you have helped us uncover the reality 🤷🏻♀️ pic.twitter.com/GeBQUSJaft— taapsee pannu (@taapsee) June 28, 2020
Meter reading that was temporarily halted due to the coronavirus lockdown has been resumed from June.
WHY THE SPIKE
Typically, electricity consumption shoots up from April till the onset of monsoon. But during the lockdown, consumers ended up paying less since the meter readings were not being taken and calculations were based on the average of the previous three months. The MERC order came in March, following which the companies computed the lockdown bills based on the electricity charges of December, January and February. Since those are winter months, electricity consumption was less, which brought down the average, leading to low bills for the three months. However, upon calculation of the meter readings after lockdown, the extra amount left from the three months were added to the June bill, showing a significant spike in charges.
"Moreover, a large number of individuals also refrained from going out, as well as worked and studied from home during this pandemic," it said. The company said that this rise in consumption has been witnessed across utility levels. "In some segments, power consumption has increased by two-three-fold. Moreover, due to the lockdown, as most consumers were working from home, the consumption of power had increased even more," it added.
MERC reiterated AEML and said, "The balance amount payable after adjusting the average bill amounts for each of the three months March, April and May have led to higher bill that was issued in June."
Adani Electricity added that upon receiving the actual meter readings, the bills will be adjusted and the extra amount would be debited or credited.
HOW IT WAS CALCULATED
Since commercial and industrial establishments were shut during the lockdown months, the power companies allowed a moratorium on the payment of fixed charges. Arrear charges were also waived off by the companies. The bills were processed on the basis of 10 per cent of average energy consumption for establishments where meter reading was not available.
Adani Electricity said that if the customer has paid more or equal to 80 per cent of the bill amount then the delay payment charges (DPC) on the unpaid amount will be reduced by 50 per cent. For instance, if the bill amount is Rs 2,000 and if the customer has paid more than 80 per cent or Rs 1,650 then DPC has been charged as 0.65 per cent which is half of normal charge of 1.25 per cent on the balance amount. In case the bill on actual reading is lower than the assessed billed amount, DPC will be recomputed based on the actual bill, it said. Once calculated, the amount would be added or deducted from the bill.
"In case, the amount paid by you based on the assessed billing is higher than that payable as per actual reading (when taken), the holding charge (equivalent to 1-month MCLR rate of SBI as on billing date) on excess amount paid shall be credited to the consumer," it said. If the bill is lower, then the amount will be levied on the consumer's account.
BILL PAYMENTS ON EMI
MERC has also allowed companies to accept bills on EMIs. If the bill is more than double the average for the period of March to May then consumers would be allowed to make the payments in three EMIs.
It also said that if a bill is being contested, the companies cannot disconnect the electricity line. "Nobody should be disconnected for non-payment until the bill related grievance of the consumer is redressed, including the exercising of choice for making payment in EMIs," said MERC.
As confusion around high bills mount, MERC has asked power companies to take measures to address these issues.
The power suppliers in the state -- MSEDCL, BEST Undertaking, AEML and TPC -- have been asked to ensure transparency while dealing with consumer grievances. Grievance officers will also be appointed to ensure that the concerns are addressed within a day. Software utility for consumers to verify their bills must also be provided, it said. It said if excessive consumption is noticed then meter reading should be checked on suo moto basis.