ERC to power utilities: Refund P20.5 billion

Danessa Rivera - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — All privately owned distribution utilities (DUs) and electric cooperatives should refund P20.5 billion in over-recoveries to their customers, according to the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC).

In a statement issued yesterday, ERC chairperson and chief executive officer Agnes Devanadera said the commission approved the refund after evaluating and verifying the reportorial requirements submitted by power companies.

The amount represents discounts granted to customers, market transaction fee refund and over-recoveries in the pass-through and distribution charge.

“The P20-billion refund that the commission approved is aimed at providing some rate relief, especially to electricity consumers who were economically disadvantaged due to the limited operation or closure of some businesses,” Devanadera said.

“As COVID-19 continues to persist, we urge the DUs to exercise empathy by allowing a more flexible form of payment of their customers’ electricity bill, such as through staggered payment without penalties or interests,” she said.

Based on the ERC order, customers of power distributors should see a rate cut of P0.0025 per kilowatt-hour to P0.9118 per kWh in Luzon, P0.0028 to 1.3182 per kWh in the Visayas and P0.0151 to P0.9118 per kWh in Mindanao for the remainder of the year.

Next year, the agency said electricity bills should reflect a decrease of P0.0014 per kWh to P1.5064 per kWh in Luzon, P0.0088 per kWh to P0.5719 per kWh in the Visayas and P0.0070 per kWh to P0.4348 per kWh in Mindanao.

The Manila Electric Co. and Cagayan Electric Power and Light Co. were ordered to refund P0.1528 per kWh and P0.0268 per kWh, respectively, which represents over-recoveries in distribution charges.

For the market transaction fee, the rate reduction amounts to P0.0029 to P0.0039 per kWh.

Under the implementing rules and regulations of Republic Act 9136 or the Electric Power Industry Reform Act, the ERC is authorized to require reports or documents from electric power industry participants to determine over- or under-collection incurred by DUs.

Stop additional charges

Meanwhile, the ERC ordered the Philippine Electricity Market Corp. (PEMC) to stop collecting congestion and other applicable charges due to a line outage, which stemmed from a damaged submarine cable of the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP).

In a letter to PEMC president Leonido Pulido III dated Sept. 20, Devanadera said power rate hikes in Negros and Panay were an “unreasonable burden” to consumers and businesses.

Devanadera said the damage in the Cebu-Negros submarine cable was due to negligence, for which responsible parties should be made to account.

The ERC’s order to stop the additional charges on consumers is effective until the complete restoration of the damaged transmission line, which the NGCP expects to be finished by October 2023.

Bacolod City Mayor Evelio Leonardia urged the ERC to look into the increase in power rates in areas being serviced by the Central Negros Electric Cooperative.

Seven Negros Occidental lawmakers and three from Iloilo have called for a congressional inquiry into the power rate hike of various electric cooperatives in Western Visayas. – Gilbert Bayoran

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