Electricity bill shocking
Residential electricity users have seen at least 50 percent rise in their bills since March due to a change in the tariff structure.
The government hiked power prices on March 1 and withdrew the common lowest slab facility that had been enjoyed by all residential users.
Households now pay Tk 3.05 for per kilowatt of power consumption if their total monthly usage is below 100 units. However, they have to pay Tk 4.29 per unit for electricity usage above 100 units and below 400 units a month. Households consuming more than 400 units have to pay a hefty Tk 7.89 per unit.
The rates apply to customers of the Power Development Board (PDB), Dhaka Power Distribution Company Ltd, Dhaka Electric Supply Company Ltd and West Zone Power Distribution Company Ltd.
Earlier, households used to pay a mandatory minimum bill and additional bill for their consumption above 100 units. If the electricity consumption of a home exceeded 100 units and remained below 400 units, they paid higher rates for the units consumed above the 100 mark.
Now, the unit price of electricity for households squarely depends on how much power is consumed in a month.
Salim Mahmud, member of Bangladesh Energy Regulatory Commission (BERC), said, "We have withdrawn the common lowest slab facility to give relief to the government from its huge subsidies.
"We want to make sure that the real small consumers enjoy the lowest slab facility. The well-off should not get the benefit of the subsidised rates," Salim told The Daily Star.
He admitted that consumers' bills have gone up sharply not only because of the price hike of electricity but also due to the withdrawal of this facility.
Residential users said the discontinuation of the minimum bill system had caused a rise in their monthly energy bills at a time when households were struggling with high electricity prices.
Khondoker Shoyeb, a consumer of Dhaka Power Distribution Company Ltd, paid a maximum of Tk 1,200 a month in the summer last year. But he had to pay Tk 1,800 in April this year.
Quazi Faruque, president of Consumers Association of Bangladesh, said, "It is not acceptable. The previous tariff system should be reinstated. People should not be punished for the state's subsidy burden.
"Ordinary citizens are living a miserable life. We do not know what they will do if electricity prices continue to increase," he said.
BERC member Salim, however, maintained that the tariff hikes and change in the billing system were part of the government's move to slash subsidies in the power sector.
According to the PDB, the average production cost of per unit electricity is Tk 5.70, and the government spent Tk 20,000 crore in subsidies to the power sector last year.
It said power tariffs in Bangladesh were the lowest in the sub-continent.
Salim said if the companies make a profit for this sudden change in the billing system, the regulator will try to make sure that the extra money goes to the PDB.
He said the regulator was preparing to put in place a mechanism for that. "We will not allow the companies to distribute the profits among its officials."
After coming to power, the present government has increased electricity prices four times on the grounds of high production cost.
Consumers of the Rural Electrification Board now pay Tk 3.08 to Tk 3.55 per unit for consuming 100 units, Tk 3.67 to Tk 4.20 a unit for 101 to 300 units, Tk 5.98 to Tk 6.35 per unit for 301 to 500 units and Tk 7.88 to Tk 9.38 a unit for using units above 500.