MANILA Electric Co. (Meralco) has confirmed receipt of an order from the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) directing the country’s largest power distribution utility to refund distribution-related charges amounting to P21.8 billion or 87 centavos per kilowatt-hour (kWh) for residential customers.

“We will comply with the ERC’s directive. We are currently studying the order so we can start reflecting this in the power bills this month,” said Joe R. Zaldarriaga, Meralco vice-president and head of corporate communications.

“While we have yet to receive suppliers’ billings, there is a possibility that the refund can offset the expected increase in generation charge and lead to a reduction in the overall power rates for July,” he added.

His comments come after the ERC came out with an order on Wednesday calling for the refund. The regulator placed an average refund rate of 48 centavos per kWh.

Meralco used the residential rate for the amount it plans to refund, while the ERC used the average refund rate.

In its order, the regulator said the amount covers the period from July 2015 to June 2022, and that it will be implemented in the next billing cycle from Meralco’s receipt of the order.

“The Commission has carefully evaluated the case at hand of [Meralco] and considered the views and concerns of the various stakeholders. We are confident that our decision exercised fairness, and promoted the interests of the consuming public who bears the brunt of all these electricity charges,” ERC Chairperson and Chief Executive Officer Agnes VST Devanadera said.

The latest derivative, which was dated on June 16, will be the fourth since January 2021: the first at P13.9 billion was on Jan. 21, 2021; followed by P4.8 billion on Feb. 23, 2022; and P7.7 billion on March 8, 2022.

The ERC further directed Meralco to execute the refund in approximately 12 months or until the amount is fully refunded to its customers.

It also directed the company to include the refund rate as a separate line item in the bills of Meralco’s customers during the refund period.

Adding the latest amount of P21.8 billion, residential consumers now have a P1.80 per kWh of refund.

Meralco is the Philippines’ largest electric power distribution company, with a franchise area covering 9,685 square kilometers.

It provides power to almost 7.3 million customer accounts in 36 cities and 75 municipalities, which include Metro Manila, all of the provinces of Rizal, Cavite, and Bulacan, and parts of the provinces of Pampanga, Batangas, Laguna, and Quezon.

In its first-quarter financial report, Meralco recorded an increase in net profit of 29.9% to P5.66 billion from P4.36 billion in the same period last year.

At the stock exchange, Meralco shares ended lower by P1.00 or 0.28% to P358 apiece on Wednesday.

Meralco’s controlling stakeholder, Beacon Electric Asset Holdings, Inc., is partly owned by PLDT, Inc. Hastings Holdings, Inc., a unit of PLDT Beneficial Trust Fund subsidiary MediaQuest Holdings, Inc., has interest in BusinessWorld through the Philippine Star Group, which it controls.— Justine Irish DP. Tabile