Power Philippines – MERALCO asserts transparency in charging customers during COVID-19 pandemic

The Manila Electric Company (MERALCO) categorically refuted and clarified Kuryente.org’s allegations, which Power Philippines published in its online channels, that the utility overcharged its customers at the onset of the COVID-19 lockdowns in 2020.

MERALCO clarified what already is of public record — that all power distributors and electric cooperatives’ meter reading activities were suspended when the government first placed National Capital Region and neighboring provinces under Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) during the early part of the pandemic, thus forcing these utilities to resort to estimated readings based on the rules contained in the Distribution Service and Open Access Rules or DSOAR.

In accordance with the existing rules and directive from the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) in March 2020, some of the March bills and all April bills of Meralco customers were estimated based on the past three months’ average daily consumption.

Joe R. Zaldarriaga, MERALCO Vice President and Head of Corporate Communications, clarified, however, that the distribution utility asked all its customers to set aside the “estimated” bills and subsequently issued new billings that reflected the actual consumption of all  customers.

“We would like to reiterate that all bills issued since the second half of May 2020 were not estimated and were based on actual meter reading, which resumed that same month,” Zaldarriaga emphasized.

Assuming lockdowns occur again, as what Kuryente.org claims, Zaldarriaga assured that “meter reading activities will continue unhampered and our customers will only pay for their actual kilowatt-hour consumption.”

Zaldarriaga likewise clarified that it is the [National Grid Corporation of the Philippines], not MERALCO, that puts the grid on yellow or red alert.

“October to December 2019 rates were due to higher pass-through charges, particularly the generation charge, or the cost of electricity sold to Meralco by its suppliers which include the WESM. Generation charge accounts for about 60% of the electric bill,” Zaldarriaga said.

He added that the November and December 2019 rates of MERALCO went up partly because of higher [Wholesale Electricity Spot Market] charges, which in turn was caused by tight supply in the Luzon Grid that triggered yellow alerts in the October and November supply months.

MERALCO’s distribution charges have remained unchanged since July 2015.

Zaldarriaga pointed out that the overcharging allegations were never proven and the issues were already resolved by the ERC in August 2020.

“As a highly regulated entity, MERALCO has always been transparent to the public. We would like to assure our customers that besides our promise to keep the lights on, we continue to look for more ways to ensure that our customers get the sufficient, reliable and least cost electricity service,” Zaldarriaga said.

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