Prahlad Rijal, The Kathmandu Post, November 5, 2019
The Nepal Electricity Authority said it would allow delinquent industrial customers to clear their power bills totalling Rs11 billion in instalments. The power utility has been supplying them with energy through dedicated feeders by charging them extra.
A board meeting of the electricity authority decided to collect the arrears by letting the industrial customers make monthly partial payments. The payment period is equal to the amount of time the account has been in arrears.
The move comes nearly a month after multiple courts threw out petitions filed by more than a dozen industries arguing that the fees were illegal. The industries had gone to court after receiving bills from the power utility for electricity they had used through dedicated feeders for more than two years.
The court ordered the industries to take the matter to the power utility's appeal committee and resolve it there, citing that the issue of electricity bills did not fall under its purview.
“We have initiated the collection process by billing almost all the industries in question," said an anonymous board official. "The industries must pay the bill or appeal to the power utility, otherwise we will cut off their electricity connection."
The industries are reluctant to appeal to the power utility because they first need to make a deposit equal to the amount due.
The row between the industrialists and electricity officials intensified in May after the power utility sent them bills in line with its internal committee’s assessment that the industries supplied through dedicated feeders and trunk lines owe Rs4.3 billion as per its billing provisions.
According to the electricity authority, 298 consumers are being supplied with electricity through dedicated feeders and trunk lines. Among them, 184 pay premium rates and around 25 factories have not paid their electricity bills since 2015.
The factories had secured 315 megawatts of 24-hour electricity supplied directly through dedicated feeders and trunk lines when the rest of the country was reeling under a severe power crisis.
In June 2015, a board meeting of the electricity authority had set premium charges for factories using electricity through dedicated feeders from August that year.
A separate meeting of the now-dissolved Electricity Tariff Fixation Commission had decided in January 2016 to set premium charges effective from July for factories using direct electricity supplied through dedicated feeders and trunk lines.
The power utility board also acted on assessments from its internal committee and decided to impose premium charges on 58 industries who used dedicated feeders but had been billed the general rate earlier.
The internal assessment committee, after adjusting the unpaid bills and revised bills for previously unaccounted dedicated users, had recommended to utility officials to recoup around Rs11 billion.
As per the provisions of the billing bylaws, any industry that wishes to consume electricity from a dedicated feeder system is required to pay around 70 percent more than general consumers.
According to the officials present at the board meeting, the board has also decided to amend the billing bylaws and charge dedicated users up to 20 percent more than general consumers.
“We will send our recommendations on reducing tariffs for dedicated users to the Electricity Regulatory Commission,” said the anonymous official.
Industrialists have time and again complained that the power utility is charging them exorbitant tariffs despite the end of the power crisis in the country.