The Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) is looking into how the recovery of P22.64 billion in power generation cost can be deferred after the High Court ruled that Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) can implement a staggered rate hike.

“We are studying to push the collection until the second half, considering that the timing is crucial and we are still preparing for the summer months,” ERC Chairperson and Chief Executive Officer Monalisa C. Dimalanta said during a press briefing on Thursday.

The Supreme Court (SC) in July upheld the ERC’s ruling in 2013 allowing Meralco to implement a staggered power rate hike to recover P22.64 billion in generation costs.

Ms. Dimalanta said that the ERC will meet with concerned parties to at least move the recovery towards the second half of next year.

“We are pushing to at least defer the recovery. I cannot say the exact amount in terms of per kilowatt-hour rate but we can push for a blended rate so that it will cover a longer period to at least cushion the burden,” Ms. Dimalanta said.

She said that the regulator is preparing for the summer months when power demand usually spikes and when electricity rates also surge. She added that in the second half of the year, “we can enjoy the benefit of hydropower plants and much lower power rates.”

To recall, the SC upheld the ERC’s order in 2013 after it denied the petitions filed by Bayan Muna and the National Association of Electricity Consumers for Reforms, which argued that “a lack of due process in ERC’s approval of the staggered power rates increase and the agency committed grave abuse of discretion.”

In 2013, the ERC approved a staggered increase of P7.67 per kilowatt hour (kWh) for the December 2013 billing and an additional P1 per kWh increase in the February 2014 billing.

The staggered rate increase came after the shutdown of the offshore Malampaya gas operations and the scheduled maintenance of other power generation plants.

In November, Meralco said it was awaiting the go-signal of the ERC on the cost recovery. — Ashley Erika O. Jose