The rapid spread of the Coronavirus pandemic across the country has forced it into a lockdown that has lasted over a month now. During this time, other than essential services, all other activities have been suspended. The pandemic has also put many in a financially precarious situation with job losses and pay cuts.
Central and state and local governments have taken cognisance of the difficulties faced by the public to offer some concessions on dues such as loans, property tax dues, water tax dues and electricity bills.
In line with this, and also partly due to operational hurdles, the Tamil Nadu Electricity Board (TNEB) has decided to charge the same amount as in the previous billing cycle for the present cycle as well, and offer some relief to those running commercial operations.
If your bi-monthly electricity bill is much less than you anticipated during the lockdown, this is the reason and here’s what you need to know.
Why is the bill amount due the same as the previous cycle?
For the billing cycle that falls during the lockdown, TNEB has decided to charge customers the same amount that they paid during the last cycle. This is because the EB staff has been unable to calculate the meter readings since they cannot visit houses during the lockdown period.
Does this mean the remainder of the bill amount has been waived?
No. The concession is only applicable during the lockdown. After the lockdown, the accurate meter readings for this billing cycle will be determined and the amount due will be adjusted with the payment that has already been made. The revised bill will be added to the next billing cycle after deduction of subsidy for 100 united for each cycle.
How can electricity bills be paid during the lockdown?
The officials of TNEB have encouraged residents to avoid visiting their offices as much as possible and pay the dues online. Those who are unable to pay online may visit the office, but they are advised to pursue this only as a last resort.
Can you set up online payment for EB now?
Yes. The online payment option can be activated by visiting the website of TNEB by following the steps listed here.
Can advance payment be made in order to avoid paying a huge amount in the next cycle?
Yes. After you have cleared the current dues, the website offers an option to pay in advance for the coming cycle. The amount paid will be adjusted with the actual dues when the next billing cycle is completed.
Does this apply to both residential and commercial connection holders?
The change in the billing method is applicable only to residential connection holders. Since most commercial establishments were shut due to the lockdown, their dues are likely to be much less than the amount paid in the previous billing cycle.
With businesses inoperational, many would be short of cash. As a result of a representation made by industries to the EB, the EB has decided to allow commercial connection holders to self-report the meter readings to their respective Assistant Engineers by sending a photo of the reading. The bill amount is then calculated based on the actual consumption for the month.
Here’s a quick guide to checking your meter reading:
Will power connections be snapped if dues are not cleared?
Authorities from the TNEB say that since the beginning of the lockdown, no power connection has been cut even if payment could not be made due to the difficult circumstances faced by the people; this consideration will continue until the lockdown is lifted.
How can those living in containment zones pay the bill?
Those living in Chennai’s 200+ containment streets have been advised to avoid stepping out. If a resident of the containment zone wishes to pay their electricity bill, they may do so online (as described above).
If online payment is not an option, they may reach out to the corporation officials stationed at their zone for assistance.
Embrace online payment
Palani Vel, Superintending Engineer said that the TNEB has attempted to ease the burden on the public and its staff through this move. “We have had our staff coming in to work from various parts of the city passing through checkpoints. We decided to follow this method so as to not have them visit houses during the lockdown and expose themselves or the public to any risk of the illness.”
A smart metering system that would allow for TNEB to register meter readings automatically could have prevented this situation. But the project’s limited pilot in T Nagar has come to a halt due to COVID-19. “We had just kicked off the project with the meter installation that would have allowed us to take readings remotely. But it will have to be resumed only after the lockdown now,” said Palani Vel.
He also urged the public to embrace online payment wherever possible. “Only around 40% of the total customers pay online. There has been a small uptick in that number since the lockdown but we are hoping that more people will take to online payments as a result of the situation we are in.”
For any further questions, you can reach out to the Assistant Engineers in your respective areas for clarification and assistance.
** TNEB clarifies
On May 8th, TNEB provided certain clarifications with regard to the charges and slabs as can be seen above. To sum up:
- The accurate reading for the current and next billing cycle will be ascertained by taking the meter reading at the end of the next billing cycle, by when lockdown restrictions may be eased.
- The total number of units consumed over the four months will be divided by two.
- The slab rates are then applied to the figure arrived at for number of units consumed during each cycle.
- Subsidy of 100 units is applicable to the unit readings in each cycle.
- The amount already paid during the lockdown will then be adjusted in the final amount due.
** Article updated on May 9, 2020 with clarification from TNEB