The aggregate P20-billion refund ordered by the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) and reflected in electric bills had eased consumers’ financial burden while the country wades through the economic hurdles of the pandemic, according to the regulatory agency.

The payback mandate to customers since last year had been directed to be enforced by various distribution utilities (DUs) – primarily the electric cooperatives (ECs) and privately-owned distribution utilities, including Manila Electric Company (Meralco).

“The said total refund represents the amount of discount granted to customers, the market transaction fee refund and over-recoveries in the pass-through and distribution charge,” the ERC explained in its report to Congress.

ERC Chairperson Agnes T. Devanadera noted that the power cost-payback to the Filipinos had been aimed at providing “rate relief, especially to those electricity consumers that were economically disadvantaged due to the limited operation or closure of some businesses.”

The ERC chief expounded “upon evaluation and verification of the reportorial requirements submitted, the Commission approved and directed the concerned distribution utilities to refund a total amount of P20.145 billion to their respective customers.”

She qualified that the biggest pie of the refund accounted for “DUs’ over-collections in their pass-through and distribution charges.”

As specified, the ERC-mandated refund resulted in cost reductions for consumers at the scale of: P0.0025 to P0.9118 per kilowatt hour (kWh) for consumers in Luzon; P0.0028 to P1.3182 per kWh for Visayas consumers; and P0.0151 to P0.9118 per kWh for Mindanao end-users.

For Meralco, in particular, it was fleshed out that the utility firm’s customers reaped cost-reduction benefits of average P0.1528 per kWh due to mandated refund on its over-recoveries in distribution charges.

In Mindanao, the ERC emphasized that the customers served by the Cagayan Electric Power and Light Company (CEPALCO) were able to experience cost reduction of P0.0268 per kWh in their electric bills.

The ERC said it already established “a systematic confirmation process of pass-through charges to ensure appropriate recovery of the various pass-through charges in an efficient manner – and that these periodic adjustments are implemented properly in accordance with the approved automatic cost adjustment mechanisms.”

But given the continuing bust of the Covid-19 pandemic, Devanadera further called on the DUs “to exercise empathy by allowing a more flexible form of payment of their customers’ electricity bills – such as through staggered payment without penalties or interests.”

She stressed that “the ERC is finding ways to reduce the charges being billed by the DUs to their customers, such as the temporary suspension of some charges, like the bill deposit adjustment, universal charge and feed-in-tariff allowance, when appropriate, to alleviate the poverty caused by this pandemic.”

Source: Manila Bulletin (