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

The Economic Times - - Companies & Economy - Ra­chita.Prasad @times­

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.

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