MORE major energy users signed up to buy power from retail electricity suppliers in the first quarter, the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) said.
The data point to an increase in the number of contestable customers moving away from the services of distribution utilities.
As of March, the number of contestable customers — or those consuming an average of at least 750 kilowatts (kW) for the past 12 months — that forged retail supply contracts surpassed the 1,000 mark for the first time at 1,024.
The comparative figures for the number of contracted contestable customers was 766 in March last year and 997 in February 2018.
Under ERC rules, contestable customers are required to buy their electricity from retail electricity suppliers (RES), ending their reliance on distribution utilities. The mandatory provision of the rules has since been put on hold by the Supreme Court, but the Department of Energy (DoE) subsequently issued a circular to make the switch voluntary for contestable customers.
But based on the ERC figures, the High Court’s temporary restraining order (TRO) has not stopped contestable customers from forging contracts with retail suppliers.
A total of 902 customers consuming an average of at least 1 megawatts (MW) for the past year have so far switched to a RES. Of those consuming 750-kW to 999-kW, up to 122 customers have switched.
The ERC said only 310 customers in the 1-MW-and-above category remained with a distribution utility as of the first quarter, while 331 in the 750-kW-to-999-kW segment retained the services of a utility. A total of 87 government entities in the contestable market have yet to switch.
As of the first three months, the contestable customers have a total power demand of 3,987.23 MW, of which 65% or 2,598.15 MW are already being supplied by retail electricity suppliers.
The switch to retail electricity suppliers is part of rules governing retail competition and open access (RCOA), which is meant to give consumers whose consumption reached a set threshold the “power of choice” on where to buy electricity.
RCOA is also meant to open the power sector to more players, thus creating greater competition and lowering electricity prices. — Victor V. Saulon