26 July, 2014 / Ramazan 27, 1435

ISLAMABAD, June 17: Anger grows in consumers who have been receiving higher than normal electricity bills for the last several months although their consumption at home remained unaltered.

According to National Energy Conservation Centre (Enercon) and other attached departments of the ministry of water and power that are responsible for spreading awareness and promoting energy conservation, there were quite a few headings that the government was charging and consumers were paying but the latter did not know what they were about.

“There are numerous charges under several headings that do not make sense,” said Mian Salahuddin who is a private businessman seeking answers for the heading NJ Surcharge that was Rs53 for the month of May, Rs44 for the month before and Rs23 in March in his utility bill. The rate was higher for some government offices between Rs200 and Rs300 and even higher for the industry.

This reaction was shared by many others who roughly scanned through their electricity bills before going straight to the bottom of the page to the ‘payable within due date’ and then ‘payable after due date’ sections.

The NJ Surcharge that consumers had been paying (that varied from month to month and year to year) was actually being collected for the construction of the Neelum Jhelum hydropower plant. While some government officials argued that the 970 mega watt (MW) project would benefit the entire country, Manager Technical Enercon Asad Mahmood wondered how long people would continue to pay the surcharge.

The surcharge has been included in the bill since the work on the dam started in 2007. The cost of construction has gone up by more that 300 per cent from Rs85 billion to Rs330 billion. And consumers would continue to pay the surcharge for another four years until the project is completed in 2016 as being claimed by the government.

Another mysterious extra charge making a big hole in a consumer’s savings was the fuel price adjustment (FPA). Eight months ago the Supreme Court took suo motu notice when the government wanted to increase power tariff because of escalating international fuel prices. According to Enercon when the SC recently withdrew the stay order issued in connection with suo motu notice against hike in power tariff, that burden was immediately passed on to the consumers.

And the maximum demand indicator (MDI) or the power factor penalty (PFP) usually charged from government and business sectors were again some of the charges that did not make sense to consumers.

“The PFP is a serious concern since it affects the transmission and distribution load on a transformer.

This is basically an industrial problem where old/obsolete heavy machines consume more than they transfer. It can also be a domestic problem in homes if copper coils consume more energy to rotate the shaft to spin the fans or water pumping machines,” said Asad Mahmood explaining how Enercon had initiated a pilot project with Faisalabad Electric Supply Company (Fesco) and USAID to look into the problem of power wastage in small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and the cottage industry.

However, Enercon suggests that since utility costs cannot be cut easily or overnight, there are ways to make energy management less burdensome and more rewarding.

“Knowledge and understanding are the first steps toward energy management. Energy wastage, inefficient motors and excessive sources of power are some of the things that lead to unnecessarily high energy bills.

Finding the hidden costs of manufacturing can be a source of substantial savings if you know where to look for answers,” suggested Asad Mahmood.

Enercon further points out, to start with, people needed to consume less energy during peak hours that varied between months and seasons. From December to February peak hours are between 5pm and 9pm, from March to May 6pm and 10pm, June to August 7pm and 11pm and from September to November peak hours are from 6pm and 10pm.

“We have to change our lifestyle. Peak hours are when most of the people sit in front of their TV sets, switch on the air conditioners because guests usually visit at that time of the day and sometimes folks iron their cloths for the next morning.

“So many other things happen in households that can increase electricity consumption. We all have to look into how we can manage energy consumption in peak hours. It can be difficult but is definitely doable,” Asad Mahmood said.

An Iesco’s deputy manager customers’ service said that in all his time in public dealing he could not recall a single customer walking up to him and inquiring about such headings.

“However, these charges are all legal parts of the tariff and they are approved by the government,” he insisted.

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