During a recent virtual press conference with the media, a concern was raised over possibility of waiver or reduction of electric bill by a resident in Thimphu.
To which the Prime Minister Dasho Dr Lotay Tshering replied, “Yes, we have talked to the BPC regarding that. The Government doesn’t have the right to dictate BPC to waive off the electric bill, but if we ask them to do it, they will. However, the amount waived off will result in reduction in taxes paid to the government from BPC. Directly or indirectly, the expenses will have to be borne from the government’s coffers. We have talked to them about the possibility of waiver, and are still in talks with them, but there is nothing conclusive as of now, until the decision has been made.”
The pandemic has impacted the livelihoods of many people who are burdened by house rents, utility bills, increasing inflation and difficulty in earning wages amidst the lockdowns. The frustrations of the people under economic difficulties are pouring online. Many people are requesting BPC to make electric bill waivers on the social media.
Chief Executive Officer of Bhutan Power Corporation (BPC), Sonam Tobjey, said they are looking into the preliminary estimate of the cost that could be incurred from waiving off the electric bill and that the government might ask them to come up with some kind of waiver though an official statement or directive from the government is yet to come.
The CEO said, “Yes, this conversation was indeed brought up at one point of time, but since the revenue generated from the electricity is paid as tax or tariff to the government, BPC doesn’t have the authority to waive off the bill unless specifically directed by the government.”
He said, however that doesn’t mean BPC has done nothing to aid the ailing economy of the country. He said BPC waived off the electric bill for quarantine facilities and entry points, but for now, there are no such incentives for the general consumers since they didn’t receive any such directive from the government dictating that the BPC should waive off consumers’ electric bill.
“If the government asks us to do it, we will make some assessments and give some recommendations to the government,” said the CEO.
The CEO also explained how waiving off the electric bills for few months could largely impact the revenue of the BPC and the country as a whole.
“If we don’t collect the revenue, we will not make any profit and there will be no dividend/tax to pay to the government. At the end of the day, from whatever profit we make, we give a dividend to the DHI and then it is given to the Ministry of Finance. By waiving off the bill, our revenue will be hampered and to that extent the remittance to the DHI will also be reduced.”
The CEO also explained there is a cost increase in average unit of power consumption as more units of power are consumed resulting in exorbitant electric bill.
“We follow the progressive block tariff. If the electricity consumption exceeds 100 units, the consumer will enter into a different tariff meaning the cost of unit of energy will be different (and higher). And if you exceed 200 and are using it between 200-300 units, the tariff will be different again. There are three block tariffs and the moment your consumption is more, you enter into higher tariff meaning more the energy consumed higher the cost per unit. The cost increases progressively. However, for the rural areas, the first 100 units of energy is free.”
General consumers will have to be mindful about how they expend their energy since higher energy consumption equates to higher cost, not by the same amount but by progressive increase in the amount per unit.