MANILA Electric Co. (Meralco) expects energy sales volume to grow by 4% this year as households return to their normal consumption while commercial establishments surpass pre-pandemic power usage, a company official said.

“Although we did end the first quarter at 2%, we’d like to improve that for the rest of the year and bump that up to 4% by year-end. Everyone is feeling a lot warmer [and] that should improve our volumes,” Randwil Dinbo U. Macaranas, Meralco’s head of investor relations, said during the PSE Star Investor Day last week.

In the first quarter, Meralco’s energy sales went up by 2% to 11,287 gigawatt-hours (GWh) from the 11,069 GWh recorded in the same period a year earlier.

“Our April sales [are] actually ahead of the 2% [level], slightly above the 2% as well, so we’d like to see that further improves in the months ahead,” he said.

Mr. Macaranas said that among the different segments, residential consumers will normalize their usage as more customers are now coming back to on-site work arrangements.

Even so, he said that due to warmer temperatures, households are also expected to increase their power consumption as more families tend to “prioritize comfort.”

“With increased mobility obviously, there is a shift also to the commercial segment,” he said.

Commercial establishments are expected to exceed pre-pandemic levels with the continued reopening of the economy, revenge spending, and return-to-office and school setups.

“So, overall, hopefully, it improves in the second half of the year. As the year progresses but overall, we’re still quite positive that we can still reach that 4% in growth,” Mr. Macaranas said.

In the first quarter of the year, Meralco registered a consolidated core net income of P9.05 billion, up by 40.5% from P6.44 billion a year ago, on sustained energy sales and revenue growth.

In a briefing last month, Meralco Chairman Manuel V. Pangilinan said: “First quarter is quite good, but I think 2023 is also looking quite good so we should be able to look at double-digit growth.”

Meralco’s reported net income, which factors in non-recurring items, rose by 26.5% to P8.07 billion from P6.38 billion previously. First-quarter gross revenues surged 23% to P105.64 billion from P85.91 billion in the corresponding period last year on higher fuel costs and volume growth.

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 an interest in BusinessWorld through the Philippine Star Group, which it controls. — Ashley Erika O. Jose