A proposal for raising power tariffs under Bangladesh Rural Electrification Board (BREB) faced opposition from consumer rights activists, politicians and a trade body in the public hearing.
Rather, they suggested BREB to ensure uninterrupted and voltage fluctuation-free supply of electricity first to its customers before proposing any power tariff hike.
They also demanded installation of prepaid meters in households to reduce harassment of consumers, avoiding abnormal bills, and preventing electricity pilferage.
The demands and oppositions were placed on the third day of a seven-day public hearing, organised by the Bangladesh Energy Regulatory Commission (BERC) at TCB Auditorium at Karwan Bazar in the city.
The third day's hearing was held on Bangladesh Rural Electrification Board's (BREB) proposal of hiking power tariffs at retail level by 10.75 per cent or Tk 0.65 per unit (1 kilowatt-hour) on an average.
Currently, the distribution company sells power to the consumers at Tk 6.05 per unit, while its retail supply cost is Tk 6.70, thus incurring a deficit of Tk 0.65.
BERC chairman Monwar Islam moderated the programme. It was addressed by BREB Chairman Major General Moin Uddin, Bangladesh Textile Mills Association (BTMA) senior vice-president Mohammad Ali Khokon, and Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB) energy adviser Professor Shamsul Alam.
Besides, Communist Party of Bangladesh (CPB) leader Ruhin Hossain Prince, Gono Songhoti Andolon chief coordinator Zonayed Saki, and Bangladesh Shadharon Nagorik Somaj convener Mahiuddin Ahmed also spoke on the occasion.
CPB leader Mr Prince said people in the country's rural areas are suffering from acute load-shedding, while fluctuation of voltage is also a major concern for them.
Most of the recipients of BREB belong to marginalised section of the society, and they are not getting quality electricity supply at all. The distribution company should not raise power prices in the rural areas before ensuring quality supply, he added.
Condemning imaginary and abnormal bills prepared by meter readers in the areas under BREB, he demanded installation of prepaid meters in households.
Prof Shamsul Alam urged the government to eliminate discrimination between the pay-scales of BREB and Palli Bidyut Samity (PBS) to ensure quality service.
BREB is supplying around 50 per cent of the country's electricity through its 80 PBSs. So, the national pay-scale should be provided to its officials like other power sector authorities, he added.
The BTMA vice-president said industries consume around 36 per cent of the BREB-distributed electricity.
The organisation has been counting losses by selling power to all its recipients, except the industrial customers. The distribution company has made a profit of Tk 14 billion alone from the industrial sector, he noted.
"Considering this, the government should not raise BREB power tariff in the export-oriented industries."
He also emphasised installing prepaid meters in households to ensure transparency in billing process.
BREB chairman Mr Moin Uddin in his presentation mentioned that the entity has been supplying electricity to 20.01 million recipients across the country. Mentioning that there are 0.88 million transformers in the BREB areas, he said transformer casualty rate was 20-24 per cent a decade ago. It is currently only one per cent because of installation of quality equipments.
He said the current system loss in the areas is 11.5 per cent, which is occurring mainly due to technical glitches.
The BREB chairman also informed that the government has taken an initiative to purchase 20 million prepaid meters shortly.
Among the reasons behind the proposed power price hike, BREB officials included their increasing expenditure in extra workforce, infrastructure, additional depreciation cost, transmission and maintenance.
On Tuesday, Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDB) proposed to hike power tariffs at retail level by 14.56 per cent or Tk 0.98 per unit on an average with effect from last April.
On the previous day, the state-body, proposed raising power tariffs at bulk level by 14.78 per cent or Tk 0.72 per unit, considering the costs in the fiscal year 2015-16.