BANGKOK — The Ministry of Energy on Tuesday said the Cabinet has approved an electricity usage subsidy in which the government will spend up to 23 billion baht to lower utility bills for households.
Coming hot on the heels after public outrage over high electricity bills at the time many are staying home to avoid the coronavirus, energy minister Sontirat Sontijirawong said the measure becomes effective retroactively for three months starting from March.
“I have to appreciate the Prime Minister and the Cabinet for easing the burdens of people. It is their cost for cooperating with the government’s policy,” Sontirat said.
Sontirat said around 22 million households will benefit from the subsidy. Different rates of discount apply depending on the amount of units in excess of what the household consumed in their February cycle.
For example, if a household uses more electricity than what they used in February but does not exceed 800 units, they will pay for the same amount they did in February.
For households that consume 800-3,000 units, they will pay for the same amount they did in February, plus 50 percent of the additional units in excess of their February usage. For households that use more than 3,000 units, a 30 percent discount applies by the same calculation.
A small number of households which are still using electricity meters with less than five amperes in capacity are also given 150 units for free, Sontirat added.
The discounts will be automatically deducted, or refunded for those who already paid, from the bills of the following months, the energy minister said.
The measure will only apply to ordinary household users. Sontirat said relevant authorities are considering relief measures for industrial and other large-scale users.
Many people were shocked upon seeing a surge in their April electricity bills. The hashtag #ExpensiveElectricityBill rose to the top trending on Thai Twitter on Monday, filled with complaints over the high cost even as the government urged the public to stay home.
Some people, like user @karnnikro, said their bills nearly tripled what they used in March, while another user @p4ihfDXLTP3KAcV said their bill also skyrocketed even though the house has no electricity-drawing appliances like air-conditioners or refrigerators.
Metropolitan Electricity Authority spokesman Jaturong Suriyasasin said the summer’s heat and extended stay at home may explain the surge of electricity usage.
“We are still charging the same rate,” Jaturong said. “We recommend people to maintain their appliances and change their electricity usage behaviors, such as opening windows for greater airflow, or turning on electric fans instead of lowering temperatures of air conditioners for greater flow of cool air.”
— กานต์ นิโคร. มันคือแป้ง! (@karnnikro) April 19, 2020