More open power billing sought

by Alena Mae S. Flores – September 10, 2017 at 08:35 pm

from Manila Standard Today

The Energy Department wants distribution utilities and electric cooperatives to unbundle their power rates and put the bill deposit and its interest as a separate line item in the monthly bill.

Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi told reporters at the sidelines of the department’s investment conference in Cebu the move aimed to ensure transparency and easier refund of the bill deposit and its interest.

“Who has the burden of proof that you have a deposit and the amount of deposit you are entitled to? The burden of proof is with the consumer. You made your deposit and yet, when you have to get your deposit, the burden of proof is yours,” Cusi said.

The bill deposit is an amount required from customers of all distribution utilities and electric cooperatives as a guarantee for payment of electric bills.

It is based on the customer’s estimated bill for one month or his load schedule provided upon application for electric service.

The bill deposit may be adjusted yearly based on the actual average monthly consumption of the customer.

The bill deposit and its annual update are based on the provisions of the Magna Carta for Residential Consumers and the Distribution Services and Open Access Rules for Residential and Non-residential Consumers, which Manila Electric Co. and other distribution utilities and electric cooperatives are implementing.

“This is part of making people informed of what they have and their rights are. We have instructed ERC (Energy Regulatory Commission) to require all DUs, ECs to put a line (item in the bill). How much is the deposit paid by the consumer,” the Cusi said.

Cusi wrote ERC last month to make the bill deposit transparent.

“Every month that you get your bill, you should know that you have a deposit and how much interest that you have earned… so that at the end of the day, when anybody would like to refund, there is no burden of proof,” Cusi said.

Visayan Electric Co. president and Aboitiz Power Corp. executive vice president and chief operating officer Jim Aboitiz told reporters the company was willing to comply with the department’s proposal.

“It shouldn’t be a big deal for a utility group to do. It’s nothing special.

That information already exists. I think it should only be harder for ECs to do because their computer systems are outdated. The better ones will have an easy time, the lousier ones will have a hard time,” he said.

Aboitiz Power, along with partner Vivant Corp. owns Veco, the country’s second largest power distributor.