Nagaland: People want uninterrupted power supply but many say no to prepaid meter
Dimapur, March 5 (EMN): Everybody wants uninterrupted power supply but there seems to be fewer takers for prepaid metering system which will help provide this facility by reducing power theft and boosting revenue.
The department of Power Nagaland (DoPN) is said to be facing tough resistance from consumers who refused to install prepaid meter, a device which measures how much electricity has been used in a property.
‘It is not easy to convince the consumers to shift to the pre-paid metering system and we cannot force them as well. The only option left to us is to educate them on the benefits of the prepayment electricity vending system. In prepaid system, there is no tampering involved but by-passing of the energy meter by some consumers are still found,’ Junior Engineer (JE) Electrical Sub-Division No.1 Dimapur, Kiyeto Shohe told Eastern Mirror.
Shohe opined that the government will be at loss while replacing the digital meter box with prepaid meter along with revenue collection, as the consumers will become conscious of their electricity usage and try to save power, but it will control rampant use of power.
The Union Ministry of Power had on August 17, 2021 notified the timeline for replacing the existing meters with smart prepaid meters. As per the notification, all consumers (other than agricultural consumers) in areas with communication networks will be supplied electricity with smart meters, and the replacement work will be completed in two phases, by December 2023 and March 2025.
Advisor for Power department, H Tovihoto Ayemi had said at an event last year that “installation of prepaid smart meters has been made mandatory as per the Union Ministry of Power notification in August 2021. It might be something new in Nagaland but widely used in other parts of the country.”
As an experiment, the DoPN had installed about 1,100 prepaid meters in Marwari Patti area in Dimapur during 2013-14, ‘which is successfully functioning and the consumers continue to use it’, said another JE of Electrical Sub-Division No.1 Dimapur, Ekhyubeni Odyuo.
She said that electricity would be supplied as long as one has credit and there will be no more minimum bill issues if there is no usage of power.
“The department meets with resistance from the public who refuse to consent to the prepaid meters to be installed in their homes/commercial premises. The staff have to go repeatedly to convince them but most of the time we fail to do so as the consumers remain adamant with their resistance. Our main target is to reduce loss, achieve actual consumption not more or less than they consume, and eventually it will improve the service. It is for the consumers’ benefit,” Odyuo shared.
The officials pointed out that the lack of co-operation from the consumers was discouraging, and as per their field experience, most of the consumers were determined not to shift to pre-paid metering system. There are 20,000 prepaid metering system consumers in both Dimapur and Kohima ‘which are functioning smoothly and satisfactorily’.
They said that public cooperation, and support from the NGOs and leaders will help them implement prepaid meters.
Benefits of prepaid metering system
Executive Engineer, Dimapur Electrical Division, Y Akito Sema said that the ‘department has no option but to implement the shift of metering policy to prepaid meters’.
The adoption of prepaid meters has benefits not only in revenue collection but also in reducing carbon emission, more efficient and transparent energy management services, energy saving, elimination of estimated billing, reduced home visits; and it will allow customers to buy electricity as and when it is required, he said.
He went on to say that implementation of prepayment electricity vending system will also allow consumers to understand the cost of energy and enable them to account for their usage in accordance with their financial position and lifestyle.
“Prepaid meters have provision to display actual remaining credit in money value as well as the total kilowatt-hour consumption. This will put consumers in the position to manage their energy purchase to suit their requirements. Since the meter displays credit instead of energy units, it is easy for the consumer to co-relate the tariff with his expenditure,” he added.
On consumers’ argument over the billing system, especially after the replacement of mechanical metering box with digital metering box, Sema said that consumers with prepaid meters will no longer be served with minimum bills for non-consuming period and they do not have to worry about erroneous bill due to wrong meter reading or estimated bills.
The vision document 2021 for sustainable development of Nagaland power sector by the Association of Power Engineers Nagaland (Apen) stated that in order to transform the distribution sector into a commercially viable sector, operational and structural reforms have to be initiated. Towards this initiative, considering the commercial viability potential, Dimapur and Chümoukedima foothill areas have been proposed for corporatisation as Dimapur Electricity Distribution Corporation Ltd. (DEDC).
However, for the corporation to take off and sustain commercially, the distribution capacity needs to be built first and the DEDCL would be equipped with installation of smart prepaid meters, it was informed.