Officials fear big consumers are evading electricity bills
KATHMANDU, Feb 22: It has been revealed that Time of Day (ToD) meters installed in big industries are not monitored regularly. Similarly, energy consumption data is not downloaded from these meters and analyzed as required by the law.
These revelations give rise to suspicions that big industries have been evading tariffs and delaying payment as NEA officials seldom analyze data from these meters to scrutinize any discrepancy in electricity consumption.
ToD meters, which are also known as smart meters, keep record of electricity consumption by big industries. NEA has installed more than 8,000 such meters across the country mainly in industrial hubs and business centers.
NEA, which logged loss of Rs 11 billion last year alone, has said that it had been failing to monitor ToD meters due to lack of manpower, laptops and incentives, at least three members of Electricity Leakage Control Committee formed in September last year said. Sandip Kumar Dev, a joint secretary with the Department of Electricity Development, leads the committee.
ToD meters are connected to every consumers of 25 KVA or more capacity. Industries alone account for over 35 percent of total annual energy consumption.
According to NEA By-laws, energy consumption data of consumers having up to 200 KVA capacity must be downloaded every six months. Similarly, energy consumption data of consumers having capacity above 200 KVA has to be downloaded very three months.
ToD meter keeps record of demand, load and consumption every half hour as well as any defaults occurred any time. Analysis of data helps to check any discrepancy in energy consumption. These discrepancies are of technical and non-technical nature. Non-technical discrepancies suggest energy tariff evasion, according to committee members.
The committee, which has also been authorized to conduct surprise inspections in suspected sites, has so far visited 22 industrial sites and downloaded data from ToD meters there. It found that the data is not downloaded and analyzed accordingly.
NEA engineers either do not have needful resources, including vehicles, or they have too many consumers to attend to, technicians involved in ToD meter reading said.
“The committee has directed all the branches and regional offices of NEA to provide it data downloaded from ToD meters from across the country for analysis,” an NEA source, who preferred anonymity as he is not authorized to talk to media, said.
Concluding that NEA might have lost huge revenue, the committee has recommended that NEA manage needful manpower for downloading data from ToD and analyzing it. It has also asked the NEA management to provide additional incentives to manpower involved in monitoring of ToD.
“We did not find any instance of NEA punishing engineers for not downloading data from ToD meters. This indicates that data from ToD meters has not been downloaded for months,” a member of the committee said. “The data is automatically deleted after two years.”
Engineers say that even a simple cable disconnection can manipulate electricity consumption figures in electricity meters. Only the analysis of data downloaded from ToD meters can help to ascertain whether discrepancy in energy consumption is due to technical reason on intentionally done.
Gopal Babu Bhattarai, deputy managing director of NEA, said that they have taken necessary initiatives to make sure that ToD meters are monitored regularly. “We are in the process of procuring remote meter reading system with an investment of Rs 200 million. Once the new system is in place, we will be able to download the data from ToD meters from our office itself,” said Bhattarai.
Setting smart meters on fire!
Large consumers have often been found reporting of fire in ToD. NEA officials fear ToD meters are deliberately set on fire by the consumers in collusion with meter readers with the intention of evading energy tariffs. According to NEA By-laws, consumers have to pay average bill of past three months if data is lost in such incidents.
Prabal Adhikari, the spokesperson for NEA, did not rule out such incidents. “There may be low meter reading prior to setting ToD on fire,” Adhikari said, adding that NEA was leaving no stone unturned to stop such unethical acts.