Introducing digital power meter
The government's decision to introduce pre-paid power meters on a wider scale across the nation from next month is welcome.
Given the magnitude of system loss at around 13 per cent, and uncontrolled consumption of power by users, especially at peak hours, the government has finally taken a step in the right direction.
The government has hiked up power tariff a number of times. The argument of consumers against these hikes has been that before going for such tariff raises, the government should have rather plugged the leakage in the distribution regime to save cost.
But the only option open before the government so far was to manage load through power cuts instead of curbing system loss including pilferage. Now with the digital prepaid power meter, the authorities will be able to rationalise the power cuts and deliver more relief to power users from frequent outages.
Admittedly, a big chunk of electricity the power companies generate is lost or remains unaccounted for in various ways.
This is partly due to the technical losses at the power plants and in the transmission and distribution lines. There is another 5-7% loss due to non-technical reasons at customer level such as tampering with meter, illegal connection and so on.
The use of pre-paid meters to reduce system loss and manage load is not something new. Albeit on a limited scale, it is already operational in Uttara, Tongi and Gulshan areas of the capital. Even with the planned expansion of its coverage in December in a few more districts including Chittagong, Bogra and Sylhet, the vast majority of the consumers numbering some 1.25 crores will still remain beyond the ambit of pre-paid meters.
Therefore, the government needs to expedite the introduction of this system among as many users as possible within the shortest possible time.
Managing load, combating theft, controlling peak hour consumption and simplifying bill collection apart, prepaid meters have also the potential to benefit the consumers through stopping inflated or ghost bills.
Therefore, side by side with further expansion of the user-base, the government should also consider keeping the cost of the meters within the buying power of common consumers.