Mumbai: Minister pulls up power companies over rising bills
State Energy minister Chandrashekhar Bawankule pulled up BEST and private players for issuing inflated bills, and also discussed the issue of tariff hikes across all companies
More power to state Energy minister Chandrashekhar Bawankule, who responded to citizens’ complaints about spiralling bills and took the city’s electricity distribution companies to task yesterday.
Energy minister Chandrashekhar Bawankule took the power companies to task in a meeting at his Mantralaya office yesterday
Consumers have been complaining about a hike in the power tariff, as well as inflated bills, particularly from the Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) Undertaking.
Citizens have also raised objections against the tariff hike at three other companies — Reliance, Tata Power (both private) and the state-run Mahavitaran. Reliance caters exclusively to suburbs, while Tata has supplies power to both, the suburbs and the island city.
Apart from distributing power through its company, Tata also supplies bulk power to BEST. Mahavitaran supplies electricity to the Eastern suburbs from Kanjurmarg to Mulund. In all, the city has more than 42 lakh power consumers of which three quarters are in the domestic category.
BEST committee members had raised these issues in a meeting on Tuesday, asking asking the Undertaking to correct the errors and manage the billing system properly. A day later, BEST, and all the other suppliers, were called to a meeting at Bawankule’s office at the Mantralaya.
The minister was peeved to hear that BEST consumers were given inflated bills for the past four months. BEST explained to him that in September, it could not send bills based on the actual monthly consumption because of a system crash, and hence it was forced to issue bills based on an average of the past three months.
However, the consumers were shocked in October when they were issued bills that were three to four times higher than their previous bills. Apart from pulling up the Undertaking, Bawankule asked all private companies to change their billing format, make their software systems foolproof, and bill consumers after taking monthly meter readings instead of calculating average charges. He also suggested that modern technology like infrared be used for meter reading.
To tackle the issue of rising costs to meet the increasing demand for power, the minister discussed how to generate cheaper power. He said CM Devendra Fadnavis would help Tata Power to get permission to run its power generating Unit 6 (wit a capacity of 500 megawatts) at Trombay on coal, so that the production cost goes down.
Subsequently, both Tata and BEST can pass the benefit on to end consumers. Tata Power has been struggling to get this permission from environmental regulators and tribunals. If run on coal, Unit 6 will be able to supply electricity at the rate of R3-3.5 per unit, which is much less than the present cost of running the facility on oil and other costly fuels.
Bawankule also said that attempts will be made to improve the city’s transmission network, so that more electricity can be brought in from outside to meet increasing demand in Mumbai. In addition, he assured that space would be reserved for more substations in the city’s new development plan, to better enable the power grid to handle the load.