ELECTRICITY rates in Metro Manila are likely to go down this month, with typical households getting at least a P50 cut in their bills, Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) said on Friday.

In a statement, the country’s biggest power distributor said the overall electricity rate this month fell by P0.2483 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) to P8.7468 from P8.9951 in April.

Households consuming 300 kWh, 400 kWh, and 500 kWh can expect their bills to decrease by P74.49, P99.31, and P124.15, respectively, Meralco said.

The lower monthly rate was due to the force majeure claim it had invoked in its power supply agreements, after power demand fell by 30% during a Luzon-wide lockdown meant to contain the outbreak.

This brought down fixed charges for generation capacity that would have been charged by suppliers, Meralco said.

A force majeure is an uncontrollable event that makes it impossible for power plant operators to fulfill their obligations.

Its generation charge for this month went down by P0.2537/kWh to P4.3848/kWh from last month’s P4.6385/kWh.

The listed firm noted that fixed costs in the April and May billing months had gone down to more than P1 billion due to its force majeure claim.

Charges from its power supply contracts, which make up 52% of its total power supply, were lowered by P0.2116/kWh.

Power costs from independent power producers, which provide 46% of Meralco’s supply needs, fell by P0.6418/kWh on higher average plant dispatch, lower fuel prices and the stronger peso.

Charges from the wholesale electricity spot market, which adds less than 2% to Meralco’s supply needs, rose by P1.8502/kWh, driven by the inclusion of line rentals related to its supply contracts.

There is still no movement in the charge for feed-in-tariff allowance as the Energy Regulatory Commission ordered another suspension of its collection this month, the power utility said.

Transmission costs rose by P0.0175/kWh as ancillary charges were increased, while taxes and other charges posted a net decrease of P0.0121/kWh.

Payments for generation charges go to power suppliers, while transmission charges are remitted to the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines. Taxes and other public policy charges such as universal charges and feed-in-tariff allowance go to the government.

Meralco’s business centers have reopened since May 7 with strict safety measures and social distancing guidelines to be observed by customers.

Shares of Meralco fell by 1.56% to close at P252 each on Friday.

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 a stake in BusinessWorld through the Philippine Star Group, which it controls.

The Energy Regulatory Commission on Tuesday ordered distribution utilities to extend the grace period for bill payments in areas under lockdown.

Customers will pay their deferred bills, which were due from March 16 to May 15, along with their monthly bills, starting May 30. These may be paid in four installments in the next four billing periods from the lifting of the lockdown, it said. — Adam J. Ang