The Uttar Pradesh Electricity Regulatory Commission (UPERC) has severely reprimanded two power distribution companies, Paschimanchal Vidyut Vitran Nigam Ltd (PVVNL) and Madhyanchal Vidyut Vitran Nigam Ltd (MVVNL) for poor progress of power meter conversion.
The Commission feels that it is due to some 'nefarious interest or goblin mode' that the two discoms are not putting their best efforts to convert single-point meter connections to multi-point in group housing societies.
"After treating the licensees with extreme patience, the commission had no option but to conclude that the licensees are intentionally disobeying the directions of the Commission either due to some nefarious interest or due to goblin mode,” UPERC said in its latest order of December 20, 2022, recently uploaded on its website.
"It was after this callous approach of licensees on numerous occasions that the Commission was forced to toughen its stand," the order stated.
On August 10, 2018, while issuing the 13th Amendment in the Electricity Code 2005, the Commission ordered the discoms to ensure that all new multi-storied buildings would have multi-point connection facilities while existing such buildings would be converted from single-point to multi-point by March 3, 2019.
PVVNL informed the commission on December 12, 2022, that out of 1,39,920 flat owners who were deemed to have opted for conversion, only 13,472 flats have got multi-point conversion and the work is going on in 12,752 flats.
Upset with the pace of conversion, the Commission said, "From the submission made by MD, PVVNL, in the hearing on December 13, 2022, it is clear that no significant progress has been achieved by PVVNL despite getting ample time to achieve the target.”
"The Commission is constrained and pained to comment that with the current pace of conversion of single point connection into multi-point connection, PVVNL drag the process till eternity," it added.
The Commission had also imposed a penalty of Rs 1 lakh for non-compliance with its directions on August 29, 2019, but it had kept the penalty in abeyance hoping to see an improved performance.
"However, the progress as submitted by MD, PVVNL is so adequate in this regard that the commission is left with no other option but to confirm penalty of Rs 1 lakh as imposed on him by its order dated 29.08.2018," the Commission said.
Aravind Mallappa Bangari, Managing Director, PVVNL, did not respond to the queries. Bhawani Singh Khangarot, Managing Director, MVVNL, said that since the Commission's order on December 20, 2022, his officers worked day and night and completed conversion work in 1,399 flats out of a total of 3,364 occupied flats under his geographical jurisdiction. Until December 1, 2022, this figure was 176 only.
“We are obeying the Commission's order in letter and spirit,” Khangarot said.
Sources in the UPERC said that the Commission strongly suspects collusion between builders and discoms for disobedience and poor implementation of its order. UPERC Chairman Raj Pratap Singh declined to comment when asked about the order which has alleged a 'nefarious interest' of discoms behind the slow progress of the conversion.
However, legal and power experts allege that discoms and builders are hand-in-glove to derail a government scheme that aims to safeguard the interest of the consumers.
“PVVNL, which distributes electricity in Noida and Ghaziabad, has made a self-contradictory order before the Commission on December 13, 2022, which tends to show the builder-discoms nexus,” Anand S Jondhale, a Supreme Court lawyer, said. “PVVNL submitted that they had 15,000 DSDR meters available with them and at the same time, they also said the delay in installation of meters was due to their non-supply. What does it mean?”
Jondhale said that he is planning to write to the commission to order an investigation under section 128 of the Electricity Act.
“Lackadaisical progress of the scheme is a matter of great concern and I believe the state government should take some strong measures for the poor compliance of the Commission's order,” former chairman of UPERC, S K Aggarwal, said.
The amendment in the Electricity Code 2005 for the said conversion was made after residents of group housing societies complained that builders install a single-point meter in a group housing society when they buy electricity from the government. They further provide sub-meter to flat owners and charge higher power rates.
Many residents say that post-UPERC's conversion order, in many societies builders started offering discounts to flat owners to lure them to continue with the existing single-meter system.
While some large multi-storied housing genuinely refused to convert to multi-point meter connection due to technical reasons, in many places builders' lobbies are spreading misinformation among residents about multi-point connections.
Residents who have opted for multi-point conversion say that their monthly power bill has gone down substantially. “Now my monthly electricity bill is Rs 1,000 less than what I used to pay earlier with a single-point meter,” Hema Paliwal, a resident of Maxblis Grand Kingston, Noida, said.
Some RWAs suggest that the Commission or the government should incentivise the conversion scheme. They say that while big group housing societies have technical complications, the affluent ones where electricity consumption is quite high don't see much benefit out of it.
“They are charging Rs 20,000 from each flat for the said conversion. They should break it into a smaller amount and collect it in a staggered manner with electricity bills in two to three years," DK Mishra, President, All Utopia Residents Association (AURA), Eldeco Utopia in Noida, said.