The cabinet has agreed with the Energy Ministry's decision to temporarily waive or lower electricity bills for households to help cut people's expenses during the coronavirus pandemic.
Energy Minister Sontirat Sontijirawong said the cabinet formally accepted the measure effective from March through to May, which applies to households across the country.
The measure, estimated to cost 23.6 billion baht, will ease the public's financial burden. Many people were taken aback to find their electricity bills had doubled or even tripled last month after they went into quarantine or self-isolation, worked from home or simply avoided going out, which lessened the transmission of Covid-19.
Mr Sontirat, also secretary-general of the ruling Palang Pracharath Party, said electricity forms one of the basic and most substantial expenses for people who have cooperated in the government's efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
The relief measure, agreed by the Energy Regulatory Commission, the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand, the Provincial Electricity Authority and the Metropolitan Electricity Authority at an urgent meeting chaired by Mr Sontirat on Monday, is expected to alleviate the immediate hardship of at least 22 million consumers, according to the minister.
Mr Sontirat said the ministry has more "homework" to do as it considers rolling out similar electricity cost reductions for businesses and industries.
"Some have made their voices heard through the media or the ministry. We are studying the issue," he said.
According to the relief proposal for households, free electricity will be extended to households whose consumption does not exceed 150 units (kilowatts/hour), up from 90 units previously.
The relief measure will only apply to houses with a power meter size of no more than 5 amps. Up to 10 million households are expected to benefit.
For households with a power meter size over 5 amps, if their consumption does not exceed 800 units, they will pay as much as they did in their February bill. The amount exceeding 800 units will be subject to a 50% discount.
Large houses that consume over 3,000 units will get a 30% discount.
Yesterday, the Federation of Thai Industries (FTI) called on the government to suspend electricity payments for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and households for four months, charging at cost for power.
FTI chairman Supant Mongkolsuthree said the government should also reduce electricity bills by 5% in the country, while the fuel tariff should be calculated based on plunging global oil prices.
"The cost of energy is very high for businesses, while the Covid-19 pandemic has taken a tremendous financial toll. Many companies cannot pay their electricity bills without risking shutting down," he said.