After suffering wage losses, salary cuts and increase in essential commodities rates during and after the lockdown due to coronavirus pandemic, the poor and middle-class households are in for another shocker – this time in the form of electricity bills, that too without any increase in the supply tariff.
In spite of some consumers, both in the domestic and commercial categories, paying bills raised online based on a method devised by the power distribution companies (Discoms) and approved by the Telangana State Electricity Regulatory Commission (TSERC) in the absence of actual energy consumption data, the bills received by most of the consumers in the State after collection of the data this week left many of them shell-shocked! Irrespective of reasons such as increase in the consumption due to home-stay in the absence of functioning of work-places or work-from-home facility in case of some, the bills generated based on the actual consumption have prompted many to vent their anger though different channels of mass-media including the social media platforms.
Poser to Discoms
“Why didn’t they (Discoms) forewarn consumers about the possibility of huge bills in case of data collection at the end of lockdown period,” asks Ravikanth, a consumer in Habsiguda area whose average monthly consumption of energy is above 300 units during summer season and below 300 units during other seasons.
With the imposition of lockdown from March 25 to prevent the spread of coronavirus, the two power distribution companies (Discoms) in the State were unable to collect the data on energy consumption due to the lockdown guidelines.
“Except power supply and maintenance services, other non-emergency activities such as collection of meter-reading was not allowed,” says Chairman and Managing Director of Southern Discom (TSSPDCL) G. Raghuma Reddy.
The meter-readers, who collect the energy consumption data of consumers by door-to-door visits, would generally visit households in the first two weeks of every month to collect data and generate bills, but they could not collect data in April and May due to lockdown.
The Discoms devised a method to generate approximate bills online in April and May based on the last year’s consumption of a particular consumer to enable them collect actual data and issue bills by dividing the three months’ consumption equally and deducting the amount paid during the lockdown period. The method devised by Discoms and approved ERC is bane to some and boon to some other consumers, particularly to those whose consumption was less in March and high in April and May sine the three months’ average consumption would be on higher side and pushes the billing into a higher slab. For example, if household has consumed only 200 units in March and over 350 units each in April an May and the three months’ total consumption crosses 900 units, the consumer has to pay the bill in higher slab of tariff as well as higher customer charges.