The government has moved to install a total of 19.43 lakh pre-paid meters in the Dhaka to ensure cent percent pre-payment electricity billing coverage in the capital by 2018.
The pre-paid system is expected to reduce systems loss, ghost billing, power pilferage and bill arrears.
The Ministry of Power, Energy and Mineral Resources has already instructed Dhaka Power Distribution Company (DPDC) and Dhaka Electric Supply Company Ltd (DESCO) to take necessary preparations for ensuring pre-paid meters for every electricity subscriber in the capital, officials said.
The directive came from State Minister for Power and Energy Nasrul Hamid after a project evaluation committee meeting at the end of the last month.
However, an official concerned said it will not be possible to ensure 100 percent pre-paid metre coverage in south Dhaka areas in such a short time due to fund crisis.“Besides, installing pre-paid meters for such a large number of subscribers will take more time,” said the official on condition of anonymity.
Only 1.55 lakh consumers in Dhaka currently use pre-paid meters.
Pre-paid meters have been installed for 82,732 subscribers out of a total 826,309 subscribers of Dhaka Electric Supply Company (DESCO).
The power distributor is targeting to install another one lakh pre-paid meters at an estimated cost of Tk 80 crore by this year.
DESCO, the largest electricity supplier in Dhaka North City Corporation areas, will take up another project to install one lakh smart pre-paid meters by 2018 at a cost of Tk 90 crore.
It will also install two lakh pre-paid meters at a cost of Tk 134 crore by 2019. Another DESCO project aims to install another two lakh smart pre-paid meters at a cost of Tk 189 crore.
Even if the projects are implemented in time, more than two lakh power subscribers will be left out of the pre-paid billing coverage.
“It will be difficult to ensure cent percent pre-paid billing coverage by 2018. But I am hopeful of achieving this target for all our subscribers by 2019,” DESCO Managing Director Brig General Md Shahid Sarwar, ndc, psc (Retd) told the Daily Sun.
He said they will install more recharge points to help the subscribers easily top-up their pre-paid metres.
Meanwhile, Dhaka Power Distribution Company (DPDC) has initiated a project to install 3.5 lakh pre-paid meters by 2018 at a cost of Tk 200 crore.
“We are trying to ensure pre-paid coverage for most of our subscribers by 2018,” DPDC Managing Director Engr. Bikash Dewan said.
He said the power distributor, which supplies electricity to over 11.16 lakh customers, will able to ensure 100 percent pre-paid meter coverage if the government allows pre-paid meter installation by the private sector.
DPDC has so far installed 72,543 pre-paid meters.
Meanwhile, many power subscribers who use pre-paid metres said they face difficulties in refilling their pre-paid metres as recharge points are not widely available.
Bangladesh Energy Regulatory Commission (BERC) last month asked the distribution companies to increase the number of top-up booths so that the consumers can easily recharge their pre-paid systems.