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Nazmul Likhon
The country’s gas distribution companies have failed to install consumer-friendly EVC meters over the past three years.
Although they failed to implement the BERC’s instructions, they were not punished, but rather, time has been extended for another year.
An Energy Division official said, the gas distribution companies are charging certain amount in bills from customers although they fail at times to supply gas at certain pressures. As a result, customers have to pay extra money despite using less gas. Besides, gas is being pilfered and misused.
In the context of customer complaints, the Bangladesh Energy Regulatory Commission (BERC) ordered the gas distribution companies on August 27, 2015, to install electronic gas volume corrector (EVC) meters for consumer connections within three years, to ensure proper gas billing, and reduce pilferage and misuse.

‘But in the last three years, only a few EVC meters were installed by Titas and other gas companies, thus exposing the gross violation of the BERC order,’ said an official.

The Technical Evaluation Committee of BERC held a public hearing last June saying that if any large consumer does not get gas in its sanctioned pressure properly, it has to pay a higher bill than the actual consumption, which is totally unfair.

The committee said, distribution companies must provide demand-supply wise bills to bulk consumers through installation of EVC meters.

For example, an official of BERC said, a gas distribution company allowed consumers to receive gas at his/her business establishment on 15 psi pressure. But most of the times the consumer gets gas of less pressure due to gas crisis. Sometimes the pressure decreases to 3-4 psi. However, the distribution company collected monthly bills from customers as per stipulated pressure despite shortfall of supply and pressure. As a result, the customer has to pay additional bill. In particular, industrial and commercial customers are more affected due to this reason.

In a recent order, the BERC has extended time for another year to set up EVC meters. But there is no clear direction that if the distribution company fails after one year, what the punishment against the company will be.

‘The gas price may increase in future due to import of LNG, and if the EVC meter is not installed, the customer will be more affected,’said an official.

Professor Shamsul Alam, energy advisor of the Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB), said that the EVC meter supports consumers for non-payment of unused gas bill. For this reason, distribution companies are unwilling to implement EVC projects in order to collect additional bills. If the government wants, it is possible to establish it quickly. Customer service should have to be ensured by the distribution companies.

An official of the energy division said, when the quantity of gas is calculated at the end of the month, there is no such difference between the purchase and distribution. In some cases, distribution companies are selling more gas than purchased from Petrobangla. Distribution companies do not look into illegal use.

There is a complaint that a large quantity of the distributed gas is used illegally due to involvement of some officials and employees of distribution companies.