Households consuming less electricity might be slapped with a higher power tariff hike compared to the heavy users as four distributors have sought to increase prices for the sixth time in two years.
Like Power Development Board (PDB) on Tuesday, Dhaka Power Distribution Company (DPDC) and Dhaka Electric Supply Company (Desco) yesterday proposed a higher tariff spike for retail customers consuming less electricity.
Desco, which serves customers in areas including Mirpur, Gulshan and Tongi, proposed an average hike of 15.9 percent during a public hearing at the office of Bangladesh Energy Regulatory Commission.
The power company demands that retail tariff should rise 20.12 percent to Tk 4 a kilowatt-hour for customers using up to 75 units.
The proposed increase is 20.41 percent for customers using 76-200 units, 24.13 percent for using 201-300 units and 31.77 percent for 301-400 units.
But the state-run retailer proposed to hike prices by only 6.52 percent for customers gobbling up from 401 to 600 units and 6.57 percent for consuming more than 600 units.
The evaluation committee of the regulator has, however, recommended only a 2.01 percent average hike for Desco customers.
The committee also said there would be no need to raise retail tariff for Desco customers if its breakeven is taken into consideration, as the company has Tk 25 crore more operating revenue than it requires for the current fiscal year.
DPDC, another state-run distributor, demanded a 23.50 percent hike for retail customers, the highest among all four distributors who have so far submitted their proposals to the regulator.
It proposed a 23.42 percent hike for households consuming up to 75 units. Its proposals for five other slabs for households hover around a 23 percent spike.
But the evaluation committee of the regulator recommended a 6.03 percent average hike for the DPDC, which serves customers in areas including Mohammadpur, Old Dhaka and Narayanganj.
PDB on Tuesday proposed to increase power tariff by only two paisas for customers using more than 600 units while the rise is Tk 1.37 a unit for customers consuming less than 75 units.
The distributor proposed more than 41 percent hike for the lifeline customers who use less than 75 units, and 26.84 percent, 29.39 percent, 31.84 percent for customers using 76-200, 201-300 and 301-400 units.
But the proposed hike is a meagre 0.25 percent for customers consuming 401-600 units and 0.21 percent for using more than 601 units.
PDB proposed a hike of around 60 percent to Tk 4 a unit in tariff for irrigation pumps, which drew criticisms.
The company supplies electricity in cities including Chittagong, Rajshahi, Sylhet, Rangpur and all the districts except those covered by West Zone Power Distribution Company (WZPDC).
WZPDC, which serves 21 districts in the southwest Bangladesh, asked for a moderate 8.59 percent hike. The technical committee of the regulator recommended a 7.51 percent hike for its customers.
A number of consumer rights groups, business chambers and left-leaning political parties rejected the tariff hike proposals outright.
Zonayed Saki, convener of a left-wing party -- Gonosanghati Andolon, said a Tk 100 increase in electricity bills would raise house rents by Tk 500.
Ruhin Hossain Prince, a member of Communist Party of Bangladesh, came down on the distributors for proposing higher rates for the customers consuming less electricity.
"It is not acceptable. We should hold public hearings not on increasing tariff, but on bringing it down."
He warned that the tariff hike could incite unrest across the country.
Nurul Islam, a former professor of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, proposed a restructure of the slabs, setting the lowest slab at 0-25 units in place of 0-75 units for taking low cost electricity to the public.
The hearing continues today and Rural Electrification Board (REB) is due to make its proposal as the country's fifth and final distributor.
The final decision on the power price hike may come later this month and the increase could be a single digit in retail tariff.
In September 2012, the BERC last increased the retail power tariff -- the rate the distributors charge end-users -- by 15 percent to Tk 5.75 per unit.
BERC Chairman AR Khan, who presided over the hearing, said the commission would take decision keeping the interests of the consumers in mind.
Meanwhile, activists of Communist Party of Bangladesh and Bangladesher Samajtantrik Dal staged a sit-in in front of the BERC office in Karwan Bazar to protest the planned hike in electricity prices.