The government is planning to restore the common lowest slab facility for all power consumers, which could help users cut the astronomical rise in their monthly bills.
Perhaps, the Bangladesh Energy Regulatory Commission (Berc) is considering introducing the lowest slab facility for all customers, Tawfiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury, energy adviser to the premier, said yesterday.
"We as well as the Berc are looking into the issue," he said.
The adviser was talking to reporters after making public the "Poor People's Energy Outlook Report 2012" at the conference room of Local Government Engineering Department Building in the capital.
Some residential users have been experiencing a four-fold rise on their monthly energy bills since March this year not only due to the rise in power tariffs but also for a change in the tariff structure.
The users said the discontinuation of the minimum bill system had caused a rise in their monthly bills at a time when households were struggling with high electricity prices.
The government hiked electricity prices three times in the last five months. On March 1, it 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, 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.
Speaking at a public hearing on proposals to increase bulk price of electricity last week, Berc Chairman Syed Yusuf Hossain said, they are mulling over whether the slowest slab facility should be restored.
Salim Mahmud, a member of Berc, earlier told The Daily Star, "We have withdrawn the common lowest slab facility to give relief to the government from its huge subsidies.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."
Consumers rights activists termed the Berc move unacceptable and demanded the previous tariff system should be reinstated.
Prof Dr M Shamsul Alam, energy adviser of the Consumers Association of Bangladesh, last week said a consumer in Dhaka paid an electricity bill of around Tk 1,000 in February this year, but the same consumer paid Tk 4,000 in June.
The reinstatement of the lowest slab facility could bring relief to the ordinary consumers, rights activists observed.