MERC to Probe ‘Unduly High’ Adani Power Bills in Mumbai
Consumers have been complaining ever since it took over Rel Infra’s business in Mumbai
Mumbai: The power regulator in Maharashtra has set up a twomember fact-finding panel to probe the “unduly high” utility charges by Adani Electricity even as explanations offered by the private-sector distributor failed to convince the state agency.
Billionaire Gautam Adani’s foray into power distribution, after it acquired Reliance Infrastructure's electricity distribution business in Mumbai, began with consumers complaining of a surge in power bills in the two months since September, when the company started billing consumers. ET reported on November 28 that consumers were complaining of the spike in utility bills, in some instances increasing more than 100%. The company had described the complaints as malicious propaganda.
“The commission, prima facie, feels that increase in billed consumption for October 2018 appears to be unduly high this year. It would need more detailed inquiry to verify the explanation of Adani Electricity,” the Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission said Friday. MERC had earlier sought an explanation from Adani Electricity after the media reports and social media uproar. But unsatisfied with the company’s response, it has now set up a two-member fact-finding committee.
“The commission needs to safeguard the interest of all the consumers, particularly those who are affected by the sudden increase in electricity bill. In this context, the commission deems it fit to appoint a fact-finding committee to go into, inter alia, the reason for the sudden upsurge of consumption/ other reason which might have led to increase in electricity bill in Mumbai and Mumbai suburbs and recommend corrective steps,
if any, to ensure that such incidents of sudden hike in electricity bills do not reoccur,” MERC said. Some Adani consumers witnessed an increase in the bill for September, which the company attributed to its inability to read meters in certain areas due to an employees’ strike. But the company told the regulator that upon meter reading, the amount was adjusted in subsequent demands.
The company said it will be open and transparent to the fact-finding committee. “AEML welcomes the press statement from MERC taking cognisance of the facts provided by AEML that contributed to higher billing for a section of customers (1.10 lakhs out of 27 lakhs) in October 2018, primarily due to higher consumption and shifting of slabs,” the company said. “Metered consumption was higher for the change of scenario from September to October 2018, which had a similar pattern in the previous year (2017) as well.”
Many consumers complained on social media of a substantial increase in their bills in October, some saying the demand has almost doubled from the previous month, which Adani attributed to an increase in energy consumption due to seasonal changes.
The regulator has told Adani Electricity that while the investigation is on, it should verify metered consumption, refund any excess amount that is found and run special camps to address consumer grievances. Electricity distribution is a regulated business in India, with prices determined by the regulator after taking all fixed and variable costs into consideration.