Officials told to inspect electricity meters after bills skyrocket
Officials have been asked to inspect electricity meters at people's houses to check whether they are functioning properly, after a torrent of complaints by the public over bills they said had risen massively.
Dr Khammany Inthirath addresses the press conference on Wednesday.
Minister of Energy and Mines DrKhammanyInthirath told a press conference on Wednesday that he had issued a notice asking Electricite du Laos (EDL) to carry out the inspections.
EDL is reeling under a barrage of complaints after many people received May bills for amounts that were two or three times the sum they had paid in previous months.
A resident of Nalao village, Sikhottabong district, MrsNoy said she was shocked when she compared her April bill of 290,000 kip to the one she received this month for 933,000 kip.
“I am sure that we used our electrical appliances as normal, but the bill for May showed that the power consumed had risen substantially, along with the amount charged,” she said.
She said her family's electrical appliances, including two air-conditioners, were in use only during the night on working days as she and her husband go to work and her two children go to school, so there was no one at home except on weekends.
“The increase shouldn't be that high,” she added. Similar complaints have flooded social media, notably Facebook.
Speaking at the press conference, DrKhammany pointed out that many households had received high electricity bills as they had been using more power to cool their houses. Bills issued in May cover the hottest time of the year and similar complaints usually emerge at this time of year.
Citing figures provided by weather forecasters, he said temperatures had been particularly high this year. The maximum recorded was 44 degrees Celsius, two degrees higher than the previous record in 1997.
Statistics show that electricity consumption in Vientiane in January, when it was cold, was 246MW but total usage jumped to 354MW in April, an increase of 108MW.
“This is an abnormal increase,” DrKhammany told the press conference, which took place at the Prime Minister's Office during the government's monthly meeting for May.
He said that in the winter a family typically uses only 450 kWh a month, equivalent to 15 kWh a day, which would result in a bill of about 393,000 kip. But if the same family used up to 1,000 kWh of electricity a month in the hot season, the bill would rise to more than 998,000 kip.
Electricity consumption is charged at three different rates. The less power that is consumed the lower the cost will be, to encourage people to save energy.
Earlier this week, Vientiane officials in charge of electricity supply explained that the reason for the sudden increase in bills was because of the surge in consumption in the hot weather.
But a large number of people were unconvinced by this explanation, saying that the temperature in March, April and May was almost the same, but for some reason the amount of power consumed as stated on the May bill, and therefore the charge, increased enormously.
Complaints on social media escalated after a resident of Nalao village in Sikhottabong district posted his electricity bill for May on Facebook, showing a charge of more than 66 million kip, compared to just 80,000 kip charged the previous month.
Vientiane electricity authorities told Vientiane Times this was a mistake on their part and that an employee had accidentally typed in the wrong number of power units consumed.
“We will reproduce the bill for the consumer,” said MrNouphanhSenglidaxon, who is in charge of the division responsible for reading electricity meters in the capital's four main districts.
He added that the user should pay only the same amount as last month because the amount of power consumed was almost the same.
Asked if the enormous increase in electricity bills received by many households could have resulted from a similar mistake, MrNouphanh said that was unlikely to be the case, adding that such instances occurred only a few times each year.
He suggested that people who were unhappy with their large bills and wanted officials to check that they had been correctly produced and calculated should ask EDL staff to do this.
(Latest Update May 27, 2016)