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Business

Power

EYES WIDE OPEN - Iris Gonzales - The Philippine Star

The last time I had a chat with Meralco president and CEO Ray Espinosa, he said energy volumes are back and the country’s biggest power distributor would likely end the year on a stronger note.

The recovery of the industrial sector – which accounts for roughly 36 percent of Meralco’s energy sales – is helping drive volume growth, he said in July.

This momentum continued and it showed in the nine-month numbers of Meralco.

Total revenues increased 11 percent to P231.7 billion, P47.4 billion of which pertains to consolidated distribution revenues which grew five percent.

Energy sales

Total energy sales grew six percent to 34,398 GWh.

Residential volumes grew two percent despite cooler temperatures, driven by continued high-volume energization of applications from socialized and mass housing customers. This accounted for 37 percent of total energy sales.

Industrial sales volumes improved 16 percent, as what Espinosa said was happening, owing to the strong performance of the semiconductor, cement, steel, and other industries.

Commercial energy sales volume showed two percent growth as retail, restaurants, and public transport sectors resumed operations.

This led to a core net income of P18.1 billion for Meralco, up 15 percent for the nine-month period.

These are positive developments because energy consumption is an important indicator of economic development.

During the nine-month period, Meralco also poured in capital expenditures of P18.5 billion, 70 percent higher than in 2020, as the company continued to expand and upgrade facilities to build a more resilient distribution network.

Nine-month performance indicators

These investments translated to Meralco’s improved performance during the period.

Meralco’s system loss improved to 5.61 percent from 6.18 percent in the same period in 2020, and well below the Energy Regulatory Commission’s 6.5 percent cap.

Average time to process applications improved to 14 percent to 3.23 days from 3.74 days as the company stepped up efforts to service applications.

Customer service improvements

Meralco also launched an Online Customer Appointment (OCA) on its website and mobile application, allowing customers to schedule their visits to Meralco business centers at their most convenient time.

To simplify the payment process, Meralco developed the Customer Account Number (CAN). Unlike ATM and Meralco reference numbers, the CAN is permanent, making it easier for customers to pay their bills through Meralco payment partners.

Meralco also redesigned its dizzying bill format to help customers better understand their power bills and help them manage their energy consumption better.

The new Meter Reading App provides meter readers a digital list of itineraries and a Waze-like experience to optimize routes.

These are all good developments and bodes well, especially for customers.

At the end of the day, customers really just want efficient service from electricity and water service providers, and in this day and age, also from internet and communication service companies.

Renewable energy

Meralco is also pivoting toward renewable energy, which is now taking center stage, as increased awareness on the use of fossil fuels is growing across the globe.

Meralco fully supports the Department of Energy’s Renewable Portfolio Standards and has committed to securing 1,500 MW of its power requirements from renewable energy sources in the next five years.

For 2022 and beyond, Meralco is looking at developing its first large scale wind farm and exploring solar storage opportunities that can compete in the mid-merit space.

This is really a positive step in the right direction because coal, though significantly cheaper, has other long-term costs.

Of course, having covered the energy sector for years, I am well aware this isn’t an easy move. It takes political will on the part of regulators and hefty investments from players.

But, as we are all made aware by now, rising temperatures and extreme damage to the environment are serious problems that continue to worsen.

Power companies and distributors can no longer look the other way.

Economic journalism

On a lighter, more personal note, allow me to end this piece by extending my deepest thank you to all of you who sent congratulatory messages and gifts for my recent award at the 30th Economic Journalists Association of the Philippines (EJAP) Business Journalism Awards.

Journalism really is a reward in itself; awards are just a bonus, but this year’s recognition, given for my coverage of the capital markets last year, is much appreciated and extra special because 2020 was one of the most challenging times for all of us. Journalists and journalism were no exception.

Covering, focusing, and really just surviving were very, very difficult amidst the pandemic and all the losses and grief around us.

It was a time when the heart and mind went on a standstill – a situation so surreal that the senses could not even fathom it.

But we just need to keep on moving and move along with this constantly turning and spinning world.

Along the way and despite the difficulties, we chance upon rainbows, witness the splendor of the setting sun or see stars on a clear night – pleasant reminders that the loved ones we’ve lost during the pandemic or otherwise, are always just watching over us.

 

 

Iris Gonzales’ email address is [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @eyesgonzales. Column archives at eyesgonzales.com

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