Tempers rise on the back of surging bills
It’s winter, and the temperature as well as the public temper seem to be high because electricity bills are burning a hole in the Mumbaikar’s pocket.
The problem has mainly been reported from the western and eastern suburbs where power is supplied by Adani Electricity Mumbai Limited (AEML) and Tata Power (TPC). The issue is bigger for AEML, which has a larger consumer base.
Many families claim that earlier, despite their appliances being used to the utmost, their electricity bill wouldn’t cross Rs 2,000 a month even during summer.
The Khatri family from Borivali say their bills for the last two months have doubled. For the months of September and October, they received bills from AEML totaling over Rs 9,000.
Rupal Khatri said, “When I made complaints, I was told by the customer care centre that our voltage consumption might have exceeded due to an old refrigerator or AC or something. Then they said that light might have been used excessively in October, or we might be having a defunct electric meter.”
“Since the takeover by AEML, bills are higher. So I switched,” said Khatri. Since the new tariff from September 1, the average hike is mere 0.24 per cent.
AEML officials claim that people slipped into higher tariff slabs with increase in power consumption. This means that until one is consuming up to 300 units, they pay at a rate of Rs 7.65 per unit in case of AEML, and Rs 7.51 to TPC. But increase in even a unit leads to the perunit cost rising to Rs 9.29 for AEML and Rs 11.49 for TPC.
“In last week of August, the staff that reads meters went on a five-day strike. So we were forced to take average billing for three months. Plus, the new tariff schedule came in place. The hike in place is as per the orders of MERC,” said an AEML official. “We expect the situation to normalise in January billing cycle.”
The AEML management also blames its consumer mix as over 16 lakh of the total 29 lakh consumers are in the 0-300 units bracket. These are the ones who are charged less than the cost of supply. Sources claim over 75 per cent of AEML are residential consumers who are facing the brunt of tariff hike.
Changing over Sources said that close to 4 lakh consumers have gone to TPC from AEML over several months. In the last two month since new tariff came in, close to 3,000 consumers have migrated to TPC. But power experts claim that consumers could pay more after migrating to TPC as changeover tariff is higher on some slabs.
Till one’s consumption is under 300 units, changeover to TPC will be beneficial. Beyond that, the difference is higher for TPC by Rs 1.24 per unit for those consuming 301500 units and Rs 2.01 per unit if over 500 units is consumed.
“I migrated to TPC but found that changeover cost is higher with rise in slabs of units consumed. Moreover we are paying additional charges towards surcharges paid to AEML. The government should withdraw duties levied on bills,” said S Ohri, resident of Kandivali. In November, Ohri paid a bill of over Rs 6,100 to TPC after he consumed above 550 units.
On December 4, MERC sent a notice to AEML asking for an explanation over the hue and cry by the public.
Mumbai is the only city where four different distributors supply electricity: Tata Power, Adani Electricity (which took over from Reliance Infrastructure), Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) and Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company (Mahavitaran)
People have the option of changing their supplier under open access, but state-run MSEDCL, which supplies to nearly a lakh consumers, is out of open access, as it cross-subsidises farmers
Tata supplies to high-end consumers, big housing societies and commercial complexes. Most of their consumers have chnaged over from Adani. TPC generates some 1,400MW at its Trombay plant, rest from its hydro power plants, other suppliers
BEST and Tata Power share the island city —with majority supplied by BEST, which has dropped its tariff by 10 per cent. Their consumer mix is such that nearly 4 lakh are those consuming less than 300 units per month. BEST has a power purchase agreement (PPA) with Tata of 752 MW, more is purchased from national grid
Suburbs are mostly supplied by Adani Electricity. Of total, around 10L fall in 300 units a month bracket. Adani requires a total 1,892 MW, of which 500 MW is sourced from its power plant situated at Dahanu and the rest is procured through PPAS
Island (electri)city: Besides, Mumbai has islanding system which is in place since 1997. Islanding means anytime that the Maharashtra system gets disturbed, the state load despatch centre (SLDC) disconnects Maharashtra from the Mumbai system and runs it as an island, shielding it from any problems. The system has been successful on 16 occasions, when Mumbaikars were unaware of disturbances experienced in the rest of the state
People hold up bills during a protest rally earlier