Adani power bills for Oct ‘unduly high’: MERC

MUMBAI: Maharashtra Regulatory Commission () said on Friday it has prima facie found that the Electricity for October appeared to be “unduly high”.

It has now appointed a two-member fact-finding committee to check all records and balance sheets of Adani over the past few months for discrepancies, if any.

MERC chairman Anand Kulkarni informed mediapersons that of Adani’s total 27 lakh consumers, 1.1 lakh residential consumers have got very high bills with 20% increased amount, on an average, and these meters will be checked on a priority basis. Kulkarni promised that the regulatory commission will monitor all bills issued from December 10 and ensure there were no more consumer grievances.

MERC also issued a directive to Adani on Friday saying, “The power utility firm shall verify metered consumption of consumers who have been billed significantly more than their average consumption. If any excess billing is found, the same should be refunded by Adani to the consumers along with an interest rate of 10%. Adani will also have to organise special camps for addressing consumers’ complaints related to excessive billing.”

Those in the two-member panel are senior bureaucrat Ajit Kumar Jain and former MERC member (technical) V L Sonawane. They must submit a detailed report in three months.

In a media statement, MERC said, “According to Adani, the high temperature/humidity in October led to at least 15% more consumption. Such increased consumption pushed residential consumers to higher tariff slabs with increased rates. Secondly, there was a strike by the billing employees during the initial period of changeover of ownership from Reliance Energy to Adani from August 27 to September 1. As meter reading was not available for 3.5 lakh consumers, they were billed on averaged (assessed) consumption basis.”

Kulkarni said, “There seems to be some transgression in the power bills and this will be probed by the panel.”

MERC member Mukesh Khullar said, “We need a detailed inquiry. For example, what has been the impact of weather consumption in October for other power utility firms in Mumbai, especially on low-end residential consumers, and the practices being followed by all power firms with respect to levy of FAC (fuel adjustment charge), particularly for claiming past dues and issuing bills on an average consumption basis.” He emphasised the need for smart meters with which consumers can track their consumption pattern and limit the use of electricity. Kulkarni said in some cases, the maximum tariff hike allowed was 3-4% but the actual bills showed up to 20-30% hike. MERC officials said if consumers were not satisfied with the Adani response, there was a three-tier redressal system with local consumer groups and the ombudsman.

Meanwhile, city Congress president Sanjay Nirupam demanded dismissal of MERC chairman and said the panel was an attempt to douse public outrage. “MERC can immediately ask Adani to withdraw the hike. Does this actually need an inquiry despite everything being so clear?” he asked.

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