Consumers can expect to pay more for electricity for January after the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) announced a power rate hike, its first after a series of reductions last year.
In a briefing, Meralco Vice President and Spokesman Joe Zaldarriaga said the power distributor would raise rates by P0.2744 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) this month.
The increase is equivalent to an additional P55 in electric bills for households consuming 200 kWh monthly; P82 for those consuming 300 kWh; P100 for those consuming 400 kWh; and P137 for those consuming 500 kWh.
Zaldarriaga pointed to a higher generation charge for the increase, saying the “January 2021 (P4.4574/kWh) generation charge is P0.3058 higher than that of December (P4.1516/kWh), and [those of] PSAs (power supply agreements) and IPPs (independent power producers) increased by P0.27 and P0.24/kWh, respectively.”
Power demand last month fell to its lowest level since the government first lifted in June the enhanced community quarantine imposed in mid-March, according to the executive.
The government implemented a Luzon-wide lockdown on March 17 to curb the spread of the coronavirus in the country, two weeks after the first local infection was reported. The strict quarantine had forced most people to stay home to avoid transmission and most businesses to suspend operations, crippling many economic activities.
Peak demand in Luzon in December decreased by 252 MW to 9,634 MW from 9,886 MW on account of cooler temperatures and more nonworking holidays.
Meanwhile, the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market rate dropped by P0.6135/kWh.
The announcement came after the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) had ordered Meralco to refund consumers for overcollecting pass-through charges while collecting underrecoveries in a two-year period.
The initial impact on residential customers is a net refund of around P0.1150/kWh.
The refund of transmission overrecoveries and transmission charge for home customers resulted in a reduction of P0.0236/kWh, while taxes and other charges posted a net decrease of P0.0078/kWh despite the approved increase in the feed-in tariff allowance (FiT-All).
The company’s collection of the universal charge-environmental charge amounting to P0.0025/kWh also remains suspended on the ERC’s order.
On the anticipated negative reception to the rate increase by consumers still struggling to cope with the Covid-19 crisis, Zaldarriaga pointed to his company’s decision to impose a moratorium on power disconnections last March to help them out.
“It has been 10 months. Napakahabang palugit na ang binigay natin (The extension we gave has been very long),” he said.
Meralco has no choice but to collect now, the official added, considering “we have to consider the viability of our operations, as well.”
Also on Friday, the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) announced it had tapped an auditing firm as consultant to verify if Meralco’s reported refunds are accounted for, returned or credited to its customers’ accounts.
In a statement, ERC Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Agnes Devanadera said the regulator’s bids and awards committee awarded to Roxas Cruz Tagle and Co. the contract for the task following a bidding process.
The firm, she added, “submitted the highest rated and responsive bid” and “has also complied with all the legal, technical, and financial requirements for the” project.
“The commission is of the view that regulation must be borne by the government, so we have allocated a budget for the engagement of an independent consultant that will conduct the audit and verification of Meralco refunds,” Devanadera said.