Unexpected power bills? your e-meter could be the culprit

Published: 18 December, 2012 06:52 IST | Shashank Rao |

Of the 1.5 lakh electrical meters installed by BEST, 45,000 have thrown up technical problems within 18 months of their installation

Residents of the island city right upto Sion and Mahim who have been complaining about higher electricity bills should get their meters examined as soon as possible — the fault probably lies with the electronic meters installed by the Brihanmumbai Electricity Supply and Transport (BEST).

Meter down: According to a ruling made by the Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission (MERC) about two years ago, all old mechanical meters were to be replaced by (insert) e-meters. A meter board with both mechanical and e-meters fixed on it. File pics

According to a ruling made by the Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission (MERC), all old mechanical meters were to be replaced by e-meters, and the BEST undertaking has been doing so in a phased manner. The very first batch of e-meters, however, has shown technical problems.

Of the 1.5 lakh meters that were installed, over 45,000 have been found malfunctioning.

BEST authorities awarded the contract to a leading meter manufacturer nearly one-and-a-half years ago. Each meter cost Rs 1,400.

The problems have directly affected the end-consumers, with complaints pouring in of e-meters going blank, and then not showing the units of power consumed. In other instances, consumers have complained that their e-meters are faulty and that the reading changes too fast.

Officials said that the problems could have cropped up if the meters are exposed to leaky walls or power fluctuations.

Consumers, both residents and commercial owners, are facing problems. “Nearly two years back my electricity bills were around Rs 1,500 or so but now it is never less that Rs 10,000,” said A Sarawal, a resident of Dadar who had an e-meter installed. She said that BEST authorities have been informed, but no one has turned up for the inspection yet.

“These problems have been occurring regularly. Wasn’t any initial check carried out by the BEST administration? These problems have cropped up 1.5 years after installation. The private manufacturer should be made to pay, as the meter has a warranty of five years,” said Ravi Raja, member of the BEST Committee.

BEST has already recovered over Rs 31 lakh for the fault, having taken Rs 290 per e-meter as repair cost from the manufacturer.

Officials from the undertaking said that as the technology is new, they too didn’t anticipate what problems would crop up. Sources said that one of the components in the e-meters has failed. “We conducted detailed tests on these e-meters. But no one knew that one-and-half years later a particular component would crash, causing a majority of them to crash,” said a senior BEST official, on condition of anonymity.

The e-meters came in lots and have been installed at various residential and commercial locations across the city. “These e-meters are still being read manually, so what is the big difference it has made? The terms and conditions laid down during the installation of such devices should have been more stringent,” said BEST committee member Sunil Ganacharya.

At present, BEST is sending its staff to check and replace meters, as and when complaints are received. “This is the first lot of e-meters that are failing and we have received complaints from customers. We are replacing these e-meters for free. We are also monitoring the situation continuously and talking to the private manufacturer,” said OP Gupta, general manager, BEST.

Other officials said that they would conduct a detailed study before appointing the next set of manufacturers to install meters in future. They also said that if the manufacturer of the faulty batch fails to replace e-meters within the warranty period, they would blacklist it.

Is your meter working?
>> Check the units consumed as shown on the e-meter. When you receive your bill, see if the figure on the bill coincides
>> Compare last month’s bill to this month’s bill. If things don’t add up, approach BEST 

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