LAHORE: Electricity bills for July have left consumers in a state of shock.

Power consumers, especially the domestic ones, have sought immediate withdrawal of increases in various taxes and per unit costs so that they get relief at a time when they are facing the highest inflation rate.

“I consumed 16 percent less energy this month from that in last month. I received Rs12,100 for the month of July,” said a resident of Ichhra. “The total electricity as mentioned in the bill was Rs7,285 for using 437 units whereas the taxes were Rs2,817 as fuel cost adjustment (FCA) and its variance were of Rs4,815. In last July (2021), I used 519 units whereas my bill was Rs10,667.”

He said the bill of my other connection was also inflated. Lesco people say that it was due to an increase in the approved power load, he said.

Minister for Power Khurram Dastgir Khan and Minister of State for Petroleum Musadik Malik, in a bid to secure a bailout from the International Monetary Fund, announced on July 26 an increase in three phases starting with Rs3.50 per unit with effect from July 26 under a uniform base power tariff to generate funds of Rs900 billion during the ongoing fiscal year.

They, in a press conference, had said the ‘tariff rebasing’ was approved by the federal cabinet under which the second phase of Rs3.50 per unit will become effective from August with a one-month gap in September, and the remaining 91 paisa per unit increase would come into force in October. They also claimed that the tariff rebasing involving Rs7.91 per unit should have been enforced in February as the previous rebasing was implemented in February 2021.

But the previous government, according to the ministers, delayed it for political reasons. With this increase of Rs7.91 per unit, besides over Rs150bn in additional sales tax, the base national average electricity tariff would go up from Rs16.91 per unit to Rs24.82 with a financial impact of Rs893bn in 2022-23.

“While we are already under stress due to receipt of the massive increase in the bills for the month of July, we are now hearing that the government plans to increase tariff more with effect from this month. And the increase will continue till October,” said another consumer.

He said he used 18 percent less electricity in July as compared to June. But despite all this, he received a Rs32,000 bill for 796 units including 700 (off-peak) and 96 (peak hours). “The total cost of electricity I used is around Rs15,000. And the remaining amount included Rs10,451 as FCA. Last month, I used 880 units and I received a bill of Rs24,174. The last July (2021) bill was of Rs21,896 for using 966 units. The government must look into this problem and give us relief with immediate effect,” he said.

A resident of Township said his last month’s bill was nearly Rs37,000. But the July bill surged to over Rs46,500. He said bill payments in instalments have also been stopped by Lesco.

“When I approached the local area office of Lesco for phased payment, the officials said that the instalments can only be made for the bills having arrears for the previous month,” he said.

Published in Dawn, August 5th, 2022

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