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Pre-paid electricity meters can help people manage consumption

Press Trust of India
May 27, 2014 at 05:17pm IST

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New Delhi: Installing prepaid electricity meters in India will have a similar "transformative" effect that was seen in the telecom sector with prepaid services, as people would be able to manage their consumption better, a Sri Lankan think tank LIRNEasia on Tuesday said.

Discussing findings of survey on access to electricity covering India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, LIRNEasia, an ICT policy and regulation think tank, said that urban, low income micro-entrepreneurs (MEs) (0-9 employees) face issues in getting new connections and later on with the quality of service.

"In India, six per cent of MEs who said they did not have a separate electricity connection for their business because they did not have the right documents. As a result, they obtained electricity from shared connections or illegal temporary connections, often at a high cost," LIRNEasia co-founding Chair Helani Galpaya said.

Pre-paid electricity meters can help people manage consumption

The model has seen success in the telecom industry and has a potential to transform the electricity distribution system too.

She added that this issue can be addressed using prepaid meters and easing the procurement process. "Since the cost of electricity is paid in advance, the service provider does not run the risk of financial liability and costs involved in issuing bills through meter reader is also avoided. Consumer can top up the meter through a reload system," LIRNEasia co-founding Chair Rohan Samarajiva said.

The model has seen success in the telecom industry and has a potential to transform the electricity distribution system too, he added. The body is meeting state-level energy regulators from Bihar, Gujarat and Maharashtra to discuss the findings of the survey, which covered 1,279 people in India (Delhi and Patna).

Samarajiva also highlighted that use of mobile phones in communicating with customers about planned power cuts and complaint receipts can also play an important role in improving quality of service.

"Among the three nations, India had the highest number of people saying they received no communication in advance about power outages. Also 64 per cent of Indian MEs said they refrained from complaining as they felt there was no use. There are problems that can be addressed using SMS and make discoms more accountable to the public," he said.

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