Residents would soon be able to recharge the electricity meters at their homes and regulate their power consumption like prepaid telephone or cellphone connections.
On March 15, Bihar Electricity Regulatory Commission (Berc), in the electricity tariff order for 2013-14, directed Bihar State Power (Holding) Company Ltd to install prepaid meters at some government departments and homes in Patna.
Sources said the recommendation was made in a bid to check power theft and revenue loss for the electricity supplier. “The company loses around Rs 3.6 crore per day, primarily owing to power theft,” said a source.
Berc consultant and tariff analyst Nand Sharma told The Telegraph: “The idea is to study the advantages and disadvantages of having pre-paid meters.”
One does not need to look far to learn about the benefits of prepaid electricity meters. Maharashtra Electricity Distribution Company introduced the system in Navi Mumbai last year. Both the power supplier and consumer have gained from the new system.
Consumers would be able to keep tabs on how much electricity they are consuming at all times. If they note a sudden spurt in consumption, they can call up the power company and let them know about the irregularity that might be caused by power theft.
“Also, they won’t have to stand in queues to pay the bills because they can recharge from home,” said Sharma.
The hi-tech meters have a consumer interface unit that allows them to recharge from home. It also helps them save power. “It would function like any other prepaid service. If you have recharged with Rs 500, the power supply would stop when you have consumed electricity of that amount. After the meter is recharged, the power supply would resume,” said Sharma.
He added that the power supplier would also benefit from the new system, as there would be no need to read meters, deliver bills and collect revenue.
There is, however, some scepticism about how successful this new system would be. A senior officer of Bihar State Power (Holding) Company Ltd, preferring anonymity, said: “The power companies have not been able to provide meters to all consumers in the state. How can they think of implementing such an advanced system?”
Of the 33.66 lakh consumers across the state, around 29.79 per cent (10.03 lakh households) either do not have meters or have damaged ones. The Berc has directed the power distribution companies to replace all defective ones and provide meters to all consumers who do not have one by March 31 this year. They have to submit a compliance report by June 30.