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ISLAMABAD: The National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA) has rejected Discos proposal on review of detection bills period under Consumer Service Manual (CMS) and decided to retain the period of the supplementary bills for two billing cycles in case of slowness of metering installation/defectiveness.

Gujranwala Electric Power Company (GEPCO) filed a Civil Petition No. 691 of 2020 before the Supreme Court of Pakistan against the Judgment of November 22, 2019 in WP. No. 70895 of 2019 before the Lahore High Court in the matter of the detection bill on account of slowness of metering installation.

During the proceedings, the Supreme Court of Pakistan expressed its concerns over the irregular billing by GEPCO in the case of “GEPCO vs Ch. Muhammad Yousaf and others” and the quantum of unrecoverable energy loss beyond two billing cycles in the case of slow metering installation.

Nepra proposes ‘key’ structural changes in Discos

Subsequently, the Supreme Court of Pakistan in its Order of May, 17, 2023, remanded back the matter to NEPRA with the direction to revisit clause 4.4(e) of Consumer Service Manual-2010 (the “CSM-20 10) (existing clause 4.3 of the CSM-2021) regarding the period of detection bills on account of the slowness of the metering installation in consultation with distribution companies; the operative part of the Order of the Supreme Court of Pakistan is as follows “ We have heard the learned counsel for the parties.

Considering the technical nature of the dispute, we find it best to first place the matter before NEPRA in order to re-examine and revisit Clause 4.4 ibid (new version 4.3) after hearing all the DISCOs as well as the Respondent in this case so that the matter can be streamlined internally between NEPRA and the DISCOs. Once this matter is concluded, NEPRA shall also revisit its earlier decision of February, 08, 2019 regarding the detection bill served on Respondent and decide the matter through a speaking order.

While deciding the same, NEPRA shall not be influenced by the impugned decision of the High Court of November 22, 2019. All the parties are in agreement with the above process suggested by the Court and have agreed that the matter be first looked at by the NEPRA. This petition is disposed of in the said terms.“

Pursuant to the Order of May 17, 2023 of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, proceedings for the re-determination of the period of charging on account of slowness of the metering installation were initiated and a hearing of the stakeholders was held at NEPRA on May 13, 2023.

According to NEPRA before ascertaining the period for slowness of the metering installation, it is imperative to review the prevailing law/policy governing slowness of the metering installation prior to the approval of the CSM-2010 by the Authority as an applicable document. It was revealed from WAPDA Policy for detection bills’ circulated in a letter of October 26, 1999 that the two billing cycles in lieu of slowness of the metering installation was already in the field.

NEPRA argued that after the enactment of the Regulation of Generation, Transmission arid Distribution of Electric Power Act, 1997, the distribution licensees were required under Section 21(2)(d) of the NEPRA Act to establish the procedure for rendering their services to the consumers.

In this regard, the distribution licencees formulated CSM-2010 which was approved by the Authority and circulated on May 03, 2010, to the stakeholders. Amongst other provisions for rendering their services to the consumers, the methodology for the replacement of defective meters on account of slowness was also addressed in the table given under clause 4.4(e) of the CSM-20 10, wherein the distribution companies were restricted to charge the detection bill maximum for two billing cycles in case of slow metering installation.

Later in the year 2020, the distribution companies suggested few amendments in the CSM-2010 including enhancement in period of charging slowness in two months. However, the Authority did not accede to the request of the distribution companies with respect to the enhancement in the period of charging slowness beyond two (02) months and thus the said period remained unchanged in CSM-2021.

The NEPRA, however, has observed that the distribution companies are involved in raising the detection bills beyond two billing cycles in such cases, which is violative of clause 4.4(e) of the CSM-20 10 (existing clause 4.3 of the CSM-202 1).

The NEPRA has further observed that the slow meters/defective current transformers (CTs) are not being replaced within two billing cycles as prescribed in the CSM-2010 (existing CSM-2021), which raises billing disputes between the distribution companies and the consumers, which results in overburdening the consumers due to irregular billing. In addition, the quantum of slowness charged to the consumers by distribution companies is not compatible with the factual position due to the unbalanced load on the three-phase meters, which either overburdens the consumers or increases the revenue loss sustained by distribution companies.

As per Clause 6.1.4 of the CSM-2021, the meter readers of the distribution companies shall check the irregularities/discrepancies in the metering installation and report the same in the discrepancy book and the concerned officer/official will take corrective action to rectify the discrepancies.

However, the distribution companies failed to point out the discrepancy of slowness of metering installation during monthly readings even in such cases, where the backup meters are installed in series with the billing meters.

The Authority allocated the funds in the tariff determinations of the distribution companies for the installation of AMR and AMI meters to streamline the billing process and to avoid revenue loss due to the malfunctioning of metering installation.

The AMR meters provide a greater extent of facility to the distribution companies to ascertain the accuracy for billing and point out any discrepancy promptly and remotely but the billing disputes due to slowness of the billing meters are frequent due to negligence on the part of the distribution companies in monitoring of AMR meters.

In some cases, the distribution companies took considerable time to replace the slow meter/defective CTs despite timely pointing out by their respective Metering and Testing teams in various checking which is unwarranted. Therefore, Regulator maintains that enhancement in the period of slowness for issuance of supplementary bill will further bring inefficiency in the operation of distribution companies and discourage the fair use of electricity in the country.

After explaining the reasons, the Authority has rejected the proposal of the distribution companies and retains the period of the supplementary bills for two billing cycles in case of slowness of the metering installation/defective CTs as mentioned in clause 4.4(e) of CSM2010 (existing clause 4.3 of CSM-2021).

The NEPRA noted that in a vigilant system, slowness of the metering installation should be detected timely, hence the distribution companies must bring efficiency in their working and replace the slow meters/defective CTs within the stipulated period as provided in clause 4.3 of the CSM-2021 in true letter and spirit. The distribution companies should ensure the charging of supplementary bills maximum for two billing cycles.

“If in the cases where the slowness of the metering installation is not pointed out timely and the metering installation is not replaced within maximum period of two billing cycles, the competent authority of the relevant distribution company shall take disciplinary action against the concerned officials and fix the responsibility for negligence in such cases,” said the Regulator.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024

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