After days of confusion, it has now become clear that consumers would get some benefit from the state government's decision to provide subsidy to reduce power tariff by 20%. MSEDCL has waived the five additional charges levied by Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission (MERC) in the bills of February. The consumers who had paid these surcharges in January will be refunded in March bills.
The power tariff had shot up by 20% in August and September due to five surcharges. Four of the surcharges were to be levied for six months while the fifth was to be recovered till the next tariff came into effect.
Even though MERC had asked MSEDCL to levy surcharges from September 1, the company started levying them from July bills issued in August. Consequently, many consumers have paid all the instalments of the four six-monthly surcharges.
Not many people know about reduction in power bills of February through subsidy because MSEDCL has never clarified how the tariff will be reduced. It was unable to do this because the government misled people by claiming that it had reduced tariff by 20% through subsidy.
The fact is that subsidy reduced tariff for some consumers in February. In March, when there will be only one surcharge - AEC 4 - the tariff reduction will be in the range of 4 to 5%, instead of 20%. Unless the new tariff is approved by MERC with effect from April 1, the quantum of benefit will remain the same. The remaining part of the subsidy will be used to offset the tariff hike approved by MERC on the basis of MSEDCL's recent petition.
Consumer activist Pratap Hogade demanded that MSEDCL should refund the sixth instalment without fail. He demanded clarification from the government as to how the subsidy amount can totally offset the proposed tariff hike.
"MSEDCL wants to recover Rs9,312 crore from consumers, which comes to Rs776 crore per month. MSEDCL is recovering Rs285 crore per month as AEC 4. The total amount required for preventing any increase in tariff is Rs1,031 crore. Against this, the government has sanctioned only Rs706 crore per month. There will be a deficit of Rs355 crore per month," Hogade said.
Hogade charged MSEDCL with issuing unofficial press releases to media that contained misleading information. "In a recent unofficial press release, the company claimed that the tariff in April 2013 had come down in comparison to March 2013 and termed this as an achievement. This is totally false. The basic tariff levied in August 2012 still continues today. The monthly tariff fluctuates depending on various surcharges that differ from month to month," he said.
MERC had levied five surcharges in August/September that hiked tariff by 20%
Four of them were for six months. The 5th (AEC 4) is until new tariff is decided
The sixth instalment of the four surcharges was to be paid in February
Subsidy has been used to waive off the sixth instalments and AEC4 in February bills
Most consumers paid the sixth instalment in January. MSEDCL will refund it in March bills
MSEDCL has filed a petition in MERC for increasing tariff from April
Govt has reserved money to completely offset this hike. This amount does not seem to be enough