If people want, they can now tell the Karachi Electricity Supply Company (KESC) how many appliances and electronic equipment they have at home. The company says this will help it determine how much the load is as it goes about upgrading its system.
Not everyone agrees that this is the best way to go about it. On Wednesday, the Sindh High Court heard a request for a restraining order against KESC. The NGO that filed the petition argued that this scheme was not approved by the regulatory authority, which makes it illegal.
KESC will send its customers a “Load Declaration Form” along with their monthly bill. The form will be sent to residential, commercial customers and general supply customers only.
After a customer has submitted the form, KESC retains the right to inspect the premises to verify the load. KESC says that customers who respond will be treated as a priority and will be given incentives when their area’s network is upgraded. They could also be given relief from power surges, voltage fluctuations and wire breaks.
KESC says it needs to know where loads are being “exceeded or abused”. Consumers can submit the forms at KESC service centers, by fax, or at the 118 call centre.
Some customers are, however, eyeing the scheme with skepticism. The general secretary of the Defence Residents Association, Asad Kizilbash, suspects mischief. “I think this is totally illogical and not the correct way to assess someone’s load,” he told this newspaper. “If I have ten air conditioners in my house but there are only two people living there, how is the number of appliances going to determine the load being used?” He argued that this is what meters are for and in DHA KESC knows exactly how much load is being used. In fact, it has already declared DHA a low-theft zone.
KESC’s Amin ur Rahman maintained, however, in response to this argument that the scheme won’t affect bills. “The load which customers declare will only help us plan for infrastructure, which was laid 10 or 20 years back and is worn out now,” he said. “If someone has ten air-conditioners but uses only one and tells us about it, this won’t mean that we will start charging them more,” he clarified. “Our people go and check the number of appliances but customers are charged only if electricity is being stolen or meters are tampered with.”
The problem is that pole-mounted transformers often burn out and the system breaks down because of excess load. “We need to know the connected load so we can invest in cables. There are computers, microwaves and many other appliances in homes that were not there ten years back,” he said.
KESC will however receive its own mail – a notice from the court. Justice Maqbool Baqar and Justice Muhammad Shafi Siddiqui, who heard the petition on Wednesday, ordered for them to be issued to KESC, the Privatisation Commission, Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority, National Electric Power Regulatory Authority, Sindh chief secretary and Karachi administrator. A date will be set for the next hearing.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 12th, 2012.