ERC approves staggered payment of Meralco bills in four months

The Energy Regulatory Commission approved a four-month staggered payment of electricity bills to help cushion the impact of the enhanced community quarantine in Luzon on consumers.

“We directed the distribution utilities to provide a longer grace period by deferring the collection of electricity charges during the enhanced community quarantine,” ERC chairperson Agnes Devanadera said.

“The cumulative amount of electricity bills shall be paid in four monthly equal installments no earlier than May 15, 2020 and without interest, penalties, fees and other charges to help electricity consumers manage the difficult health crisis,” Devanadera said.

This means the cumulative amount of electricity bill that was supposed to have fallen due within the ECQ would be amortized in four equal monthly installments, payable in the four succeeding billing months following the end of the ECQ.

The ERC said the electricity bills that would be staggered starting May were those that fell due during the ECQ, or from March 16 until April 30.

“This shall be reflected as a separate item in the electricity bill due on those succeeding months, provided that the first billing due date following the ECQ shall be no earlier than May 15,” ERC said.

Manila Electric Co., the country’s biggest power retailer, welcomed the move of the ERC to ease the burden of power consumers.

“We welcome the recent ERC directives and as such will implement all the guidelines in the ERC advisory. We are confident that under the ERC’s guidance, Meralco’s implementation of the grace period, deferment of electricity bill, and four-month amortization of the bills falling within the ECQ will help ease and lessen the burden of our customers during these trying times, as we face the global pandemic, and endure through the current lockdown,” said Meralco first vice president and regulatory management head Jose Ronald Valles.

The ERC said actual payments received by the distribution utilities during the ECQ period are still required to be immediately remitted proportionately to the concerned entities.

It said customers who have the ability to pay are encouraged to settle their bills within the original due date to help manage the cash flow in the energy supply chain and ensure the continuous supply of electricity.

“Consequently, DUs are authorized to adopt incentive schemes to encourage early payment of the deferred amount by customers who are able to settle ahead of the four months,” the agency said.

The ERC said the generators or power suppliers, Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp., National Power Corp., National Transmission Corp. National Grid Corp. of the Philippines, independent power producers, independent power producer administrators and the market operator should extend the same incentive payment scheme to the retail electricity suppliers, distribution utilities and other customers.

It said that for the safety of the meter readers and to comply with the physical distancing directive for the containment of COVID-19, the utilization of estimated billing could be applied, provided that the word “estimate” would be clearly written on the consumer bill and that corresponding adjustments would be made as soon as practicable.

The ERC said the collection of the feed-in tariff allowance from electricity customers was suspended for another billing period to be implemented on the next electricity bill.

It reminded DUs of their obligation to procure power requirements at the least cost and submit power supply contract utilization report, record of payments received from customers and record of payments made to suppliers, covering the period March 16 to April 30 not later than May 31.

Topics: Energy Regulatory Commission , ERC , Meralco , electricity bills , enhanced community quarantine , coronavirus disease 2019 , COVID-19
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