Report by Kamgar Ekta Committee (KEC) correspondent
Adani Electricity Mumbai Ltd. recently launched four digital services for consumers in Mumbai: self-help kiosks around the city, a 24/7 artificial intelligence–enabled chatbot, customer care service via video calls, and smart meters.
Responding to a question at this launch, Adani Electricity mentioned plans to expand their private electricity distribution business outside Mumbai. The company said that they plan to start electricity distribution outside Mumbai based on the provisions of existing laws even if the amendment to the electricity bill is further delayed. Currently, the Electricity (Amendment) Bill 2022 has been referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Energy. Electricity workers have been repeatedly opposing the bill, which will allow private companies to supply electricity using the existing infrastructure of public distribution companies.
Although the company refused to disclose potential regions for electricity distribution, it is well understood that big corporates will target only metros and cities where they have assured profit. Earlier this year, news about the handing over of distribution in 16 major cities of Maharashtra to private companies was circulating, which electricity workers had strongly opposed and succeeded in stalling.
Adani Electricity Mumbai Ltd. has invested Rs. 500 crores for installing 7 lakh smart meters. Of these, 1.10 lakh have been installed, and the remaining will be set up by the end of 2023. Tata Power has already installed smart meters for thousands of consumers in Mumbai and has announced plans to reach 1 lakh consumers by March 2023.
Smart meters will allow prepaid and postpaid payment, just like in phone bills. Moreover, these meters will enable the company to disconnect electricity supply if consumers have not paid their bill in time! The Adani Electricity company has also said that the cost of smart meters will eventually be recovered from consumers themselves!
In the 2020 union budget, the government had announced that conventional electricity meters will be replaced by prepaid smart meters so that consumers can choose their service provider and electricity rate. However, in reality, consumers have no choice. Only the corporates have choice of both consumers and rate per unit! The claims that smart meters will be beneficial to consumers are entirely false. It is clear that the big corporates are interested in smart meters not for public convenience but to secure their own profit.
Adani Electricity will also commission the Kharghar–Vikhroli transmission system by June 2023 and Kudus–Aarey Colony by 2025, which will only lead to more expensive electricity for consumers.
The privatisation of electricity is a real and immediate threat for both workers and consumers. Consumers should join electricity workers in the movement against privatisation.