Power consumers to bear cost of smart meter project in Kerala

It has been learned that the board intends to shift the responsibility to the LDF Government.
Image used for representational purposes only
Image used for representational purposes only

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: It is a double whammy for the power consumers in the state. Shortly after experiencing a power tariff hike, they are now confronted with the potential shock of the smart meter project.

In the initial phase of the project led by KSEB, around 37 lakh consumers will be required to bear the installation cost of approximately Rs 9,500  per smart meter. This decision was reached after the three private companies involved in the tendering process failed to participate in the reverse bidding, as the lowest quote received amounted to Rs 3,475.16 crore.

Despite protests from trade unions against implementing the smart meter project on the TOTEX model (total cost of expenditure combining capital expenditure and operational expenditure), the board decided to open the tender applications on Thursday. Pressure from the central government to initiate the tendering process has been mounting, as they claimed that the state would lose a 15% subsidy and face higher borrowing rates. As a result,  Power Minister K Krishnankutty urged the board to open the tender applications by the June 15 deadline at 11 am.

A top board official revealed that three private companies from North India participated in the bidding, and the lowest quote received was Rs 3,475.16 crore for 37 lakh smart meters. “Due to the excessively high rates quoted by the private smart meter-producing companies, the board conducted a reverse bidding process on Saturday. However, all three companies abstained from participating, which means the lowest price they quoted still stands. Now, the board will decide the next steps and address the matter on Monday,”  said the official.   

It has been learned that the board intends to shift the responsibility to the LDF Government. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan is expected to return from Cuba on Monday. This latest development has further infuriated the protesting trade unions, as several rounds of talks with the power minister have failed. Moreover, Krishnankutty had previously assured them that the tendering process would be halted, but the latest developments indicate otherwise.

KSEB Workers’ Association (CITU) general secretary S Harilal expressed dissatisfaction with the exorbitant rate of nearly Rs 9,500 per smart meter, especially when the union cabinet and the board had set a cap of Rs 6,000.    

“Consumers are already burdened by the increased power tariff. The trade unions will not allow the board to proceed with inflated smart meter rates. In Uttar Pradesh, the Yogi Adityanath government had to cancel the tender when the smart meter rate reached Rs 10,500,  leading to massive public protests. The only way to reduce the smart meter rate is by implementing the project with the help of Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs),” Harilal said. 

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