ERC to Meralco: Explain power bill computation

By Lenie Lectura – May 19, 2020
from Business World


The Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) has asked the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) to explain how it computed electricity bills for March to April this year, following mounting complaints from subscribers.

This, even as Meralco has spent the past weekend explaining through media how it computed the consumers’ electricity usage. It stressed that its meter-reading activities continue to be accurate and transparent.

It said that some March and all April bills were estimates based on the average daily consumption of customers over the previous three months, following the Distribution Services and Open Access Rules (DSOAR) issued by the ERC. Meralco suspended physical meter reading during the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).

“We have been bombarded with complaints on Meralco’s alleged high billings covering the past three months, including this May, and we need to look into these consumers’ allegations that we required Meralco to submit to us data or information for us to validate the accuracy of their billing calculations,” said ERC Chairman and CEO Agnes VST Devanadera.

The agency wrote Meralco a letter dated May 15. It wants Meralco to explain and show proof of its basis in calculating the kilowatt-hour (kWh) consumption for its customers during the implementation of the ECQ.

In its letter, the ERC directed Meralco to submit the following documents within five days from receipt of the relevant letter:

  • Basis on the determination of the kWh consumption of the captive customers during the ECQ, particularly for the billing periods of March, April, and May 2020.
  • Power bills issued by the suppliers used in the computation of the Generation Rate for the same billing period.
  • Invoices from the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines used in the computation of the Transmission Rate for the aforesaid billing period.
  • The Uniform Reportorial Requirement (URR) for the said billing period.

The data will help the ERC determine if the utility firm has complied with the DSOAR), and if Meralco implemented accurately the advisories issued by the agency issued last April 15 and  May 5 relating to the implementation of Pass Thru Charges to consumers.

“We are adhering to our mandate of ensuring that the interest of the consuming public is promoted and protected,” Devanadera added.

Last Friday, Energy Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi said his office has also received similar complaints, mostly “bill shock.”

“An average cannot be higher than the highest consumption in the previous months. However, the bill which reportedly reflects average consumption is higher than the highest bill that they have received in previous months,” Cusi said in a mix of English and Filipino during a virtual press briefing last week.

Energy Undersecretary Felix William Fuentebella said in the same briefing that all distribution utilities should adhere to the electric bill advisories set by the DOE and the ERC. “We’ll make sure that the interpretation of Meralco and other distribution utilities are in line with ours.”

The ERC and DOE earlier directed distribution utilities and retail electricity suppliers to defer customer electricity bills falling due within the ECQ “without interest, penalties, fees and other charges.” Likewise, electric bills should be staggered for up to four months.

Meralco explains

Meralco clarified how it computed the consumers’ electricity usage and maintained that its meter-reading activities continue to be accurate and transparent.

The company also said the previous three months are considered as low consumption’ months as these were significantly cooler compared to the dry season months of March, April and May.

However, consumers said they were surprised when they received their electric bills this month. Meralco explained that the apparent spike in electricity bills was due to increases in consumption during the ECQ and the high May temperatures.

“Everyone is at home. So, appliances are usually switched on most of the time throughout the day, especially appliances like fans and airconditioners. Airconditioners, which most households would use 6 to 8 hours per day before ECQ, could be used for 12 to 24 hours per day during the ECQ,” the company said.

“An average cannot be higher than the highest consumption in the previous months. However, the bill which reportedly reflects average consumption is higher than the highest bill that they have received in previous months,” Cusi said in a mix of English and Filipino during a virtual press briefing last week.

Energy Undersecretary Felix William Fuentebella said in the same briefing that all distribution utilities should adhere to the electric bill advisories set by the DOE and the ERC. “We’ll make sure that the interpretation of Meralco and other distribution utilities are in line with ours.”

The ERC and DOE earlier directed distribution utilities and retail electricity suppliers to defer customer electricity bills falling due within the ECQ “without interest, penalties, fees and other charges.” Likewise, electric bills should be staggered for up to four months.

Meralco explains

Meralco clarified how it computed the consumers’ electricity usage and maintained that its meter-reading activities continue to be accurate and transparent.

The company also said the previous three months are considered as low consumption’ months as these were significantly cooler compared to the dry season months of March, April and May.

However, consumers said they were surprised when they received their electric bills this month. Meralco explained that the apparent spike in electricity bills was due to increases in consumption during the ECQ and the high May temperatures.

“Everyone is at home. So, appliances are usually switched on most of the time throughout the day, especially appliances like fans and airconditioners. Airconditioners, which most households would use 6 to 8 hours per day before ECQ, could be used for 12 to 24 hours per day during the ECQ,” the company said.