Lately there has been public outcry over the rising electric bills due to the replacement of old analog meters with electronic meters. In Kelana Jaya alone, KEADILAN has received 22 complaints in the last few weeks from the public. Many claim that their electric bills have increased by 20% to 50%. Due to the public outcry with elections coming soon, the Minister of Energy, Green Technology and Water Dato’ Sri Peter Chin ordered a halt to the replacement exercise.
In addition, TNB and the Minister have explained that any hike in electricity usage after the replacement is due to the better and more accurate readings from the new electronic meters. This may or may not be the case, but that explanation is not a sufficient answer to the potential size of the financial burden to all TNB consumers.
Today, KEADILAN will expose that the meter replacement exercise is in fact a massive financial undertaking by TNB and the extra financial burden to consumers are potentially in the billions.
Our research shows that there are currently 8.03 million TNB consumers in Malaysia. We estimate the average price of the new electronic meters to be at RM250 each. Therefore the whole replacement exercise could potentially cost TNB 8.03 million units x RM250 = RM2 billion.
For the financial year 2012 TNB’s revenue from all consumers was RM34.4 billion If these new electronic meters results in a very conservative increase of 2% in all electric bills, the total extra burden on consumers will be a staggering RM688 million per year. Since the new electronic meters have a life span of 10 years, consumers will eventually pay an extra RM6.88 billion to TNB over a period of 10 years.
• RM2 billion in supplier contracts.
• Potential cost to consumers: RM6.88 billion of additional electric bills over 10 years.
In the above and proper context, this issue is no longer a simple case of a few irate consumers with 50% increase in their electricity bills. This matter should be viewed as a national interest matter with billions of ringgit at stake.
Therefore today, KEADILAN calls for greater accountability and transparency in the whole TNB replacement exercise. Specifically, the public has a right to know the following:
1. Who are the suppliers of these new electronic meters to TNB?
Our research shows that TNB currently has five suppliers. One of the five companies, Malaysian Intelligence Meters Sdn Bhd is partly owned by relatives of former Prime Minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
2. What are the prices paid for the new meters? Are the pricing competitive to local and global standards?
Our research shows that the average price of the one phase and three phase electronic meters is RM250 each.
3. Are the supply tenders done through an open tender process or via negotiated tenders? Full and transparent details should be provided by TNB.
In addition to answering the above questions, KEADILAN is of the view that since the potential increase in charges to consumers could be in the billions, the government must set up a sizeable and truly independent body to investigate consumer complaints. The body should be properly empowered to test the new meters as arbitrators and make independent findings that binds TNB and consumers. This should be fully funded by TNB which ultimately stands to make billions from the replacement exercise.