By Jenina P. Ibañez, Reporter

THE Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) on Friday ordered 63 distribution utilities (DU) to refund its customers over P2.8 billion in over-recoveries charges.

In a statement on Friday, the ERC said the power distributors should refund to consumers the over-recoveries in pass-through charges, which includes generation rate, transmission rate, system loss rate, lifeline subsidy rate, and senior citizens subsidy rate.

ERC said the DUs will refund between P0.0025 per kilowatt hour (kWh) to P1.3183/kWh to its customers.

“The Commission ordered to refund the total amount of P2.8 billion to the concerned 63 DUs, particularly 38 in Luzon, 13 in Visayas, and 12 in Mindanao,” ERC Chairperson and CEO Agnes VST Devanadera was quoted as saying in a statement.

She said the refunds would be given over a period of 12 months, except for Manila Electric Company (Meralco) and Angeles Electric Corporation (AEC).

The two companies asked a shorter refund period, which will start on the billing cycle after they receive the ERC’s order.

Meralco said that their refunds will span three months, from the March billing until May.

In a separate statement, Meralco said rates in March will rise slightly by P0.0278 per kWh to P8.8901 per kWh from P8.8623 per kWh in February. This translates to a P6 rise in the monthly bill for households who consume 200 kWh per month.

“The slight increase this month is mainly due to a higher generation charge, which was mitigated slightly by a refund of over-recoveries in pass-through charges and a one-time adjustment in universal charge-NPC stranded contract costs,” Meralco said in a statement.

Meralco vice-president and head of utility economics Lawrence S. Fernandez said in a phone interview on Friday that the company will follow the order as part of their requirements with the regulator.

He said that over/under-recoveries continue as the company bills customers prospectively, according to their previous consumption.

“Because of uncertainty of the consumption of customers, pwede talaga (there may be) magka-over-recovery or under-recovery.”

The refund, he said, will be incorporated in the different components of customers bills.

The ERC earlier approved adjustments for Meralco’s over and under-recoveries in pass-through charges for January 2012 to October 2013. Meralco will refund P0.14/kWh through a universal charge adjustment in March, and P0.05/kWh of pass-through charges in the next three months.

The regulator said the DUs incurred over-recoveries of P107,000 to P657.58 million covering various time periods, because of differences between the estimated costs of generation or transmission charges and the actual costs.

There were also gaps between discounts granted and the actual subsidies collected for lifeline and senior citizen charges.

ERC directed the DUs to submit compliance statements within 10 days as well as monthly reports until the full amounts have been refunded.

Under ERC Resolution No. 16 Series of 2019, DUs are required to file applications for confirmation and approval of calculations of their over or under-recoveries for automatic cost adjustments and true-up mechanisms every three years.

“The confirmation of the DUs’ pass-through charges are meant to protect the interest of the consuming public by way of ensuring that what were charged and collected from them are reasonable and accurate rates”, Ms. Devanadera said. — with R.M.D.Ochave