This is what BESCOM can charge for residential homes

By SEEMA PRASAD

Residents of South City apartments were in for a rude shock this February when Bengaluru Electricity Supply Company Limited (BESCOM) served them a notice demanding penalties up to Rs 54 lakh. Similar notices were also sent to Purva Highlands apartment complex. The Vigilance Police Commissioner (BESCOM) from the Hoskote branch said that two months ago, a huge gated community on Doddaballapur Road, with over 3000 flats had everything from a spa, a beauty parlour and an ATM in addition to STPs, fire hydrants and club house facilities on their apartment premises. Hence, it was charged under LT-5 tariff referred to for industrial uses, whereas the residents were paying electricity bills under LT-2a tariff meant for domestic purpose. This was considered to be misuse of the tariff guidelines, according to the Karnataka Electricity Regulation Commission (KERC).

In Feb 2018, residents appealed to the KERC during their public hearing on BESCOM’s proposals for tariff revision. The revised tariff charges were published on May 14, 2018 on the KERC website. This revised policy clarified that the use of electricity for STP must be considered under domestic category LT 2(a) only. However, South City once again, received a notice saying that the new policy applied only from the date of the revision (April 2018) and that they would have to pay up for misusing tariff limits from March 2017 to Feb 2018.

To put an end to this once and for all, the Bangalore Apartment Federation (BAF) petitioned BESCOM to resolve the confusion over tariff categories. During the meeting held last month with all the officials involved, the BESCOM MD Rajendra Cholan put all the confusion to rest. He clarified that KERC notification issued on 22/11/2016, in its eighth amendment stated that the rules for Recovery of Expenditure for Supply of Electricity was to be charged under Clause number: 3.1.1 (A).

This clause specified that any commercial or industrial use of power in domestic complexes should be charged under LT 2(a) tariff only, as long as the connected load for such purposes is less than 25% of the total connected load of the domestic complex, including connected load of each apartment unit in the complex.

Cholan instructed his engineers to withdraw the exorbitant penalties and charge the harassed residents under domestic tariff rates, specifically under the LT-2A category, after verifying that they have not exceeded 25% of the total connected load that is allowed for sub-activities such as ATMs, club houses, STPs and fire-hydrants.

South City apartments having 1998 apartments has a total connected load of around 12000 KW of electricity. Only about 10% of this is for club house, fire pumps, STPs, and other common areas. The MD also clarified that the 2016 notification applies for the past period as well, asking them to withdraw the notice completely.

Interestingly, residents also came to know that back-billing can be done for the past two years at the maximum, even as the BESCOM officials had informally told them earlier that they may have to pay a penalty for the last five years of alleged tariff misuse. The residents are now hoping for the MD’s instructions to be officially documented and communicated. South City Apartment Owners Association are waiting for another meeting with officials to formalize the previous meeting’s proceedings on record so that such confusion may be avoided in the future.

Officials across BESCOM are informally aware of KERC’s recent amendments highlighting the tariff of apartments with STPs and fire-hydrants under LT-2A category. But the circular has not yet been sent to the departments and officials are waiting to be formally addressed for more clarity.

At the end of the meeting, BESCOM officials decided to rule out the case as Short Claim, which is the formal terminology for BESCOM admitting its fault and officially reversing or changing tariff charges. However, if there had indeed been a case of serious misuse, the residents would be charged under Section 135 under the Electricity Act, 2003. In such cases, only the consumer court can make a decision.

The confusion goes back to previous tariff orders issued by KERC that categorized apartments or organisations with commercial facilities such as club houses, swimming pools, shopping complexes and Sewerage Treatment Plants under the HT-4 tariff, which is meant for heavy consumers of electricity.

Rajagopalan, a member of the South City Owners Apartment Association said that South City apartments consume 5300 KW for lighting, water-pumping and lifts, and other common areas, costing Rs 12 lakh per month. Out of that, only 680 KW is consumed by the STP that is considered to be one of the biggest in the city inside a residential property.

The STP treats 8 lakh litres of water per day from which only 1,50,000 litres is used by the residents themselves, whereas the rest of the treated water is being pumped into Puttenahalli lake for the last two years, for the benefit of the public. “I can easily approach the Lokayukta and High Court, and shut our STP down, because we are providing this facility free of cost to the public and BBMP. In that sense, they are actually doing a disservice to us for the good deed we are doing. In fact, after 2016, apartments need not build STPs where drainage facilities are available, as it is up to the BWSSB to provide us with water,” Rajagopalan pointed out.

The break up of the tariff can be downloaded from this link of KERC.

© Oorvani Foundation/Open Media Initiative. Also available online at Citizen Matters.

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This is what BESCOM can charge for residential homes By SEEMA PRASAD Residents of South City apartments were in for a rude shock this February when Bengaluru Electricity Supply Company Limited (BESCOM) served them a notice demanding penalties up to Rs 54 lakh. Similar notices were also sent to Purva Highlands...