Automatic electricity meters soon

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Once installed, over-billing of up to Rs50-60bn annually would be avoided

Shahrukh Syed

Islamabad—The government has carved out a plan under which automatic reading system of electricity meters will be installed that will do way with the monster of overbilling amounting to Rs50-60 billion in every year once and for all and to this effect, the government has managed to take a loan of $430 million from the Manila-based Asian Development Bank (ADB).
Initially, automatic reading system of electricity meters will be installed in the jurisdictions of Islamabad Electric Supply Company (IESCO) and Lahore Electric Supply Company (LESCO), a senior official privy to the development told Pakistan Observer.
“And afterwards, the said system will also be introduced in the jurisdictions of other electricity distribution companies (Discos) that will wipe out the issue of overbilling once and for all.”
It is the irritating fact that the electricity consumers receive inflated bills from respective Discos twice in a year that enables the top functionaries to cover up the loss of Rs50-60 billion which the system is facing in the wake of bad governance, inefficiencies, theft and losses. The overbilling every time in a year is equal to one month’s billing meaning by that the consumers factually pay the electricity bills for 14 months in one year which is sheer injustice to the consumer.
National Electric Power regulatory Authority (NEPRA) in its annual report of 2015 had revealed that the Discos have not only subjected the 200 million countrymen to the fake power outages but also to the 70 percent over billing.
The report 2015 also mentions that 70 per cent of ToU (time of use) meters in eight distribution companies are either outdated or out-timed resulting in sending of either peak or off-peak billing wrongly. However, the ministry of water and Power does not believe in the Nepra’s report.
Many electricity consumers in the month of June this year of 2016, received inflated bills which is crystal clear from the survey that Pakistan observer conducted in the month of June 2016 according to which, a perturbed lady, Mrs Shamim, 45, residing in I-10/2 sector said: “This time, the electricity bill has been dropped at my house as a bomb shell because it has disturbed my whole monthly budget. The government should take actions against the wrong metering and overbilling. Last June I received the monthly bill of Rs2, 604, but this June it is Rs12, 700. The inefficient discos are still involved in sending inflated bills. We are also quite upset over the new wave of inflation that usually grips the masses in the holy month of Ramazan and on top of that the inflated electricity bill has made our lives miserable.”
Allah Bakhsh, residing in Judicial Colony, Rawalpindi also shared the same feelings about extraordinary rise in electricity bill saying he got the electricity bill of Rs14, 000 in this month. He said that the authorities concerned should take action against the overbilling.
Mrs Khalida a resident of Satellite Town narrated the same agony saying she is a housewife and got electricity bill in the current month of June which is abnormally inflated as the amount billed stands at Rs21,000. The Mrs Khalida says that the bill she received last year in the same corresponding month stood at just Rs1500 which has now swooped to Rs21000.
Top functionaries of some Discos that include Lesco, Fesco, Mepco, Gepco and Iesco told Pakistan Observer on the condition that they were not to be named that the entities were under tremendous pressure by top mandarins of ministries of water and power and finance to collect maximum revenue to show the performance in terms of improving the revenue and reducing the circular debt and that is why they adopted a modus operandi under which masses are subjected to over billing.
Now with the proposed installation of automatic reading of meters will solve the issue of over-billing, the officials of the ministry hope.