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Public hearing on power tariff hike proposal continues

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Staff Reporter
The public hearing on various proposals to raise electricity tariff continued for the second consecutive day on Wednesday at the Bangladesh Energy Regulatory Commission (BERC).
At the hearing, transmission line operating entity, Power Grid Company of Bangladesh (PGCB), proposed raising its wheeling charge by 70.77 percent while BERC technical evaluation committee recommended a hike only by 1.53 percent.
On the other hand, West Zone Power Distribution Company (WZPDC), a state-owned entity operating across the country’s south-western region, proposed hiking its tariff by 21.31 percent at retail level.
But the BERC technical evaluation committee found no justification of their proposal and recommended no rise in tariff.
However, the committee said the WZPDC can only be allowed to raise its retail tariff only by 2.28 percent once the bulk level tariff is raised.
The WZPDC has been operating distribution business in the country’s south-western areas under Khulna and Barisal divisions and greater Faridpur district.
On Thursday, the commission will listen to the proposals of the state-owned Power Development Board (PDB) and Dhaka Power Distribution Company Ltd (DPDC) who submitted proposals for raising tariff at retail level.
Talking part in Wednesday’s hearing, representatives of different consumer groups, social organizations, political parties and business bodies agreed with the BERC recommendations and opposed the proposals placed by the PGCB and WZPDC.
Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB) adviser Professor Dr Shamsul Alam said the PGCB and PDB have disputes over the assets and liability transfer. So, until their disputes are settled, the energy watchdog body should not take any decision on their proposals for raising transmission charge.
Echoing the CAB adviser, Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI) representative Abdur Rahman said both the PDB and PGCB proposed raising their tariff showing transmission charge on their own liability which is a clear duplication.
So, before taking any decision, such duplication should be addressed properly, he observed.
Abdur Rahman also said there are many export-oriented shrimp farms and cottage-small and medium industries in the south-western regions which will face financial pressure if the WZPDC’s retail tariff is increased.
Chief coordinator of the Gano Sanghati Andolon, a left-leaning social pressure group, Zonayed Saki said if the power tariff is raised anyway at any level, it will have multiplier effects on the grass roots level people who do not have enough purchasing capacity.
“Before taking any decision, it’ll be wise to take various aspects into consideration to avert a social unfairness,” he said adding that it’s not clear why PGCB proposed a 70.77 percent rise in its transmission charge.
Asking the state-owned entities to include their energy audit reports during submission of their proposals, BERC Chairman AR Khan said the watchdog body might not consider their proposals if such compliance is not met in future.
He said the commission will try to hold public hearing outside Dhaka as in the past to listen to the people of other districts.