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Centre delivers 'smart' shock to Telangana discoms
- Makes fixing of smart metErs for domestic connections mandatory
- Consumers are in for a rude shock, too, unless State government takes a policy decision on following Centre's instructions
- Each metre may cost between `8,000 and `14,000, depending on the phase. At present, discoms charging about `3,000 for each metre
- Though Centre permits consumers to fix meters on their own, discoms aver it is risky and may even lead to tampering
Hyderabad: The Union government's recent order instructing all the States to enforce the installation of smart pre-payment meters strictly to all new electricity consumers has Telangana Discoms on tenterhooks. They are worried over huge financial implications of the move.
The discoms have no clue who will bear the expenditure on acquiring and installing such meters. They say a metre would cost more than Rs 8,000. Installing them would call for humongous expenditure beyond their capacity given the precarious situation of their finances. Also, compounding the problem is a huge shortage of prepaid meters given production capacities.
The managements of discoms aver that the onus is on the government which has to take a policy decision to resolve the issue on a priority basis. It should bail them out of the impending crisis, they urge.
It may be mentioned here that the Centre had recently issued a gazette with new rules, titled the Electricity ( Right of Consumers) Rules, 202, which say that, "no new electricity connection shall be given without a metre and such metre shall be the smart pre-payment meter or pre-payment metre. Any exception to the smart metre or pre-payment metre shall have to be duly approved by the commission (ERC) which shall record proper justification for allowing the deviation from installation of the smart meters."
The discom authorities point to the immediate need for the government to step in and take a policy decision, as the Centre has made mandatory promotion of prepayment meters in the coming days.
At present, power utilities are installing conventional meters by collecting fixed development charges which cost not more than Rs 3000 from domestic consumers. The meters cost between Rs 8,000 and Rs 14,000, depending on whether it is single phase or three-phase connection. The Union Ministry of Energy has also given a clarification in the gazette that the consumer can buy the meters on their own or the distribution licensees should supply.
"The State government has not taken any policy decision so far to permit the consumer to buy smart meters on their own in view of safety and security concerns as there is possibility of tampering with them. Till today, the government has only been procuring conventional meters and installing the same without consumers' intervention," an official explained.
Now that the cost of new meters would be quite high, the government cannot afford them unless development charges are increased at least by five to six times from the present Rs 3,000 for domestic use.
Another big challenge is the availability of smart meters in the India market, which is very low because of low production scales. The State and the Centre should arrive at a consensus on the issue and keep in in abeyance till such time production meets the demand in the country.
Perhaps, Telangana was the first State in the country to enforce the mandated prepayment meters in all government offices in 2016. Discoms were entrusted the responsibility. The meters have been fixed at more than 60 per cent of the government offices, it is learnt.
WHY SMART METERS?
The Centre has initiated several measures to bring more transparency and effect digitalisation of the services extended to the electricity consumers. With the aim of cutting distribution losses and setting the stage for separating the carriage and content operations of power distribution companies (discoms), it has asked the States to adopt the installation of smart prepayment meters in place of conventional ones. The States which adhere to the Central norms will be provided financial benefits in the form of grants and loans to ease on the debt burden on them