Lalmatia resident Dr. Monirul Islam uses prepaid gas meter. Tk. 500 a month gas cannot finish. The meter goes to Tk. 400 per month with rent.
Another house of Dr. Monirul Islam is in Aruna Palli of Savar. Even if there is no one there, he has to pay a bill of Tk. 1080 per month. But both of its connections are under the same distribution company Titas Gas Transmission and Distribution Company. He told Barta24.com about these two experiences just a few miles apart. On the opposite side of his house in Dhanmondi, customers without meters have to pay extra bills.
He said, 5 people cook in my Lalmatia house. Never had to recharge more than Tk. 500. And paying bills for 3 years in a row where we don't live. That is more than double.
Monirul Islam expressed his regret and said that he saw the news in the newspaper that the profit bonus is being taken by cutting the customer's pocket. I saw in the newspaper that the officers and employees of Karnaphuli Gas Distribution Company received a bonus of Tk. 18 lakh each year. We pay the bills and they are making mountains of money.
Abed Ali, a resident of Rupnagar residential area (Road 19), a prepaid meter user, told Barta24.com that his family has 4 members. Tk. 350 to Tk. 450 taka recharge month passes. This is more or less the experience of gas prepaid meter users. Those who have more family members are spending a maximum of Tk. 600.
Fixed bill is collected for unmetered residential customers which is currently equal to two stoves of 60 cubic meters and one stove of 55 cubic meters. Whether the customer uses, does not use or uses more. Gas distribution companies have been saying for decades that unmetered residential customers are burning more gas. By saying this, the price is increased from time to time. Their point was that installing meters would increase their revenue. But when the first prepaid meter was installed in Lalmatia area (in 2016), the result was reversed. It was seen that the bills of pre-paid meter users were coming from Tk. 150 to Tk. 250 (then the bill of unmetered customers was Tk. 450 for two stoves).
State Minister for Power, Energy and Mineral Resources Nasrul Hamid said in the question and answer session in the Jatiya Sangsad(JS) in 2016, the results of the pilot project of installing pre-paid meters are good. 33 cubic meters of gas is being saved per month in two stoves. At that time the bill of 77.41 cubic meters was fixed in two burners. That is, customers are burning 45 cubic meters of gas.
Before the pilot project, the movement to install gas prepaid meters was noticeable. But now distribution companies have taken a strategic position to delay as much as possible. Out of 38 lakh residential customers, only about 4 lakh meters have been installed in 8 years. The Bangladesh Energy Regulatory Commission (BERC) is pushing for the customers to buy and install themselves due to the slow-moving policy of the companies.
BERC ordered expediting installation of pre-paid meters in 2018 in response to hike in gas prices. It was decided to open the facility so that customers can buy and install meters from the market themselves. Accordingly, after a long wait, a policy was formulated in 2021. The policy states that the customer will purchase the meter from the store of his choice and submit it to the distribution company. Distribution companies will test and install at customer's premises. However, it has been detained due to various complications. Companies are installing meters at prices several times higher than the market. That too slowly. Companies are starting to think of it as a new sector of looting.
BERC held a public hearing on the latest gas price hike in March last year. Then, based on the usage statistics of prepaid customers of the distribution companies, one stove was reduced from 73.41 cubic meters and two stoves from 77.41 cubic meters to 55 and 60 cubic meters respectively.
Titas Gas has applied to BERC to increase the existing one stove from 55 cubic meters (Tk. 990) to 76.65 cubic meters (Tk. 1379.70), two stoves from 60 cubic meters (Tk. 1080) to 88.44 cubic meters (Tk. 1591.92). Although the application was submitted in May this year, the matter was kept under wraps after much controversy. However, recently it has been known about the start of activities in this regard quite secretly.
BERC Chairman Nurul Amin said that the proposal to increase the gas bill of Titas will be taken up in the commission meeting soon.
Titas claims that unmetered consumers use more gas than the prescribed amount (55 and 60 cubic meters). As a result the system loss has increased. An application has been made to make one stove 76.65 cubic meters and two stoves 88.44 cubic meters. The earlier orders given by BERC were not realistic.
Former member of BERC (then member - Gas) Maqbul E-Elahi Chowdhury told Barta24.com, I think it should have been below 50 cubic meters. 55 and 60 cubic meters were done for the first time respectively. Provisions are then made for installation of prepaid meters and subsequent reductions.
In response to the question that on what basis 55 and 60 cubic meters have been made, he said that they had 3.5 lakh prepaid meters where it was seen that 45 was used on an average.
In response to a question, he said, will you consider 3.5 lakh meters, or their (Titas gas) 100 meters. If more gas is used in a particular area, then a meter should be installed there quickly, it will not be logical to increase the bill of 34 lakh customers.
BERC has started the process of increasing the gas bill of unmetered residential customers. It is said that two officials entered the field in collaboration with Titas and Petrobangla. They want it quickly to implement the card application.
Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB) senior vice-president and energy advisor Shamsul Alam told Barta24.com that BERC must hold a public hearing to respond to Titas' application. There is no opportunity to increase the bill without public hearing. When the public hearing starts, there will be a discussion on this matter with data. I don't see any justification for increasing the bill.