During the first and second lockdowns, the Bhutan Power Corporation (BPC) sparked up some controversies and anger from the public by following an average bill reading for the past three months, instead of the actual bill reading. There are doubts still looming whether the history will be repeated again, in the view of current lockdown and its possible extension.
The average bill reading attracted thousands of criticisms, as it denied households of the advantages of block tariff as well as levying late payment surcharge, which resulted in exorbitant bill charges that was unaccounted for since actual meter-readings couldn’t be conducted.
CEO of BPC, Sonam Tobjey, said that the past incident is still fresh in his mind, and this time, BPC won’t make the same mistake of conducting average bill reading system during the current lockdown.
“In fact, we are almost done with meter-reading for the January month in Thimphu. We even made the ePass so our staff could physically check and conduct the meter-reading in each household in Thimphu. As for red zones, like Phuntsholing and Gelephu, we have yet to make the actual meter-reading, but we already issued a notification that urges the people to take photograph of the meters and send it to various officials, so that the bills will be prepared and delivered individually on WhatsApp.”
He said BPC has two officials in the red zones who have been asked to forward the meter-reading photographs so that the bills can be prepared accordingly. BPC is hopeful that the same issue will not be repeated again.
The CEO also said that in other dzongkhags, the meter-readings will be done following normal procedures on 15th day of every month.
He further said that the best they could do for residences in red zones was to issue the notification since BPC officials are not allowed to move in such areas due to the high risks of Omicron infection.
“In households and industries which have digital meter, this won’t be an issue since the readings can be conducted digitally anytime, but digital meters are expensive and most households use analogue ones. We have issued the notification, but we have yet to receive a single meter reading on WhatsApp from the households in the red zones.
“If they fail to send their readings on WhatsApp then we have no other option than to wait for the lockdown to ease, so that the readings can be done physically. We will avoid levying extra charges for late payment of bills by deferring and making some adjustments, and the consumers will be billed according to their consumption pattern only,” Sonam Tobjey said.
Officiating Director and General Manager of BPC, Chador Phuntsho, said that for February, BPC will have to wait to see how the lockdown situation unfolds, and make preparations accordingly, by holding a discussion among the board members after which the BPC will be able to notify the public regarding the decisions made.
“Some households in Thimphu aren’t accessible, so we are requesting them to submit their readings as photographs online,” he added.
Tashi Gyelmo, the media focal person of BPC, said that BPC is following block tariff for electricity billing whether for lockdown or during normal times, which means that if a person is charged a specified rate for a block of energy, the successive/more blocks of energy used by that person will be charged progressively less.