THE Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) is in the process of determining the extent of subsidies to be granted to marginalized power users following the signing of the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of Republic Act (RA) 11552.

“With the signing of the IRR, we are just about to formulate the new criteria and new levels,” ERC Chairperson and Chief Executive Officer Monalisa C. Dimalanta said in a Viber message to BusinessWorld on Monday.

The IRR will govern how the so-called “lifeline rates” are set. Lifeline rates for marginalized power consumers are authorized by RA 9136, or the Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001 (EPIRA). RA 11552 amends Section 73 of EPIRA and is known as An Act Extending and Enhancing the Implementation of the Lifeline Rate.

Marginalized end-users are those deemed unable to pay the full power charges.

In the meantime, ERC Commissioner Floresinda G. Baldo-Digal said that distribution utilities (DUs) are to use the current approved lifeline rate.

“Section 2 Part 2 of the Rules provides that the DU shall still use the existing approved lifeline level in the computation of the lifeline subsidy and lifeline discount, until such time that new lifeline level was filed by DUs and approved by the ERC,” Ms. Baldo-Digal said in a Viber message. 

Discounts provided to end-users require approval by the ERC and vary based on the individual lifeline programs of the DUs.

According to the ERC, in the first half, the lifeline program provided an average monthly subsidy of P541 million to almost six million end-users.

The average discount for end-users is P90 which applies to those with monthly consumption of seven to eight kilowatt-hours.

Energy Secretary Raphael P.M. Lotilla said the new system for determining lifeline rates will improve targeting to ensure the subsidies go to those in most need.

RA 11552 extends the applicability of lifeline rates to 50 years from the original 20.

According to the amendment to EPIRA, the Department of Social Welfare and Development has been roped in to provide the list of beneficiaries qualifying for lifeline rates. — Ashley Erika O. Jose