Nograles reiterates call for equitable billing scheme

Jericho Nograles
Puwersa ng Bayaning Atleta (PBA) party-list Rep. Jericho Nograles

A HOUSE leader on Tuesday reiterated his call to implement the equitable billing scheme, which is essential for electricity consumers to secure fair and more accurate representation of their consumption and charges.

Puwersa ng Bayaning Atleta (PBA) party-list Rep. Jericho Nograles , vice chairman of the House committee on energy, said his proposal is very important to address the consumers’ concerns regarding power bills during lockdown months.

“Without actual meter readings, the distribution utilities were given an ERC directive to make estimated readings based on historical consumption. Naturally with more people at home, there will be bill shocks especially when the actual readings come in,” said Nograles who made the proposal during the previous hearing of the House committee on energy.

Earlier, the panel called on the Manila Electric Company (Meralco), the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) and other industry players to explain the sudden upsurge of bills during the lockdown months of March, April and May when meter reading activities were discontinued.

The sessions revealed that Meralco and other distribution utilities in the country utilized an existing ERC framework on estimating bills.

Coming from Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano’s recent statement welcoming the reduction of electricity rates by Meralco, Bulacan Rep. Jonathan Sy-Alvarado, chairman of the House committee on good government and public accountability, assured that the present leadership will continue to find ways to further help the people reeling from the coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19). 

“Ginagawa po ng Kongreso lahat ng paraan upang mapababa ang presyo ng kuryente sa pamumuno ni Speaker Cayetano. Hindi po kami nanghihingi ng anomang pasasalamat. Kasama po sa tungkulin namin ang mapabuti ang kalagayan ng taong-bayan,” said Sy-Alvarado.

When quarantine measures eased and meters were finally read, Meralco and other utilities recorded and aggregated two to three months of customers’ actual consumption, and all were billed in one month.

The issue of equitable billing then was raised, with Nograles noting that electricity rate per kilowatt hour (kWh) adjusts per month, and that there will be pricing differences when two or three months worth of electricity consumption were merged into just one month.

To resolve such a scenario, Nograles suggested that ERC should address the gap on the principle of estimation based on the three months’ average kWh consumption, by considering the price per kWh.

According to him, “I proposed that- equitable (billing) to be fair to all. I have invited the public to send their questions on their bills via emailed billing statements and, so far, things look in order.

If there was anything to improve, it should have been a more equitable estimated billing spread across the days between two actual readings, and junk estimated billing.”

Under this equitable billing framework, customers’ total consumption from March 2020/April 2020 to May 2020 will be prorated to compute for the average consumption for three months. Thereafter, the corresponding ERC-approved charges for the particular month will be applied. The result will be the final amount due for the months of March 2020/April 2020 to May 2020.

Meralco immediately implemented the equitable billing scheme for customers who had their meters read and received their bills in June. For the customers who already received their lockdown months’ bill in May, the adjustments, whether upward or downward, resulting from the proration, will be reflected in the August 2020 bill.

The electric distribution firm also announced that this month’s electricity rate of P8.4911 per kWh is the lowest in three years, since September 2017. This is triggered by the P0.2055 per kWh decrease in August 2020 vis a vis previous month, resulting to monthly savings of P41 to P103. This is the fourth consecutive month that Meralco rates have decreased.