AMID mounting concerns by customers on increased electricity bills for May, Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) said its meter readings remain accurate and transparent.

In a statement released on Friday, the country’s biggest electricity distribution utility addressed customers’ bill shock, saying that the May bill is the result of the actual electricity consumption in kilowatt-hours (kWh) from the current meter readings, plus the estimated consumption reflected in the deferred April and March bills.

“This total, which is already based on the true and actual readings, is what customers actually see in the May bill. That is why you may notice a rise in the total amount due,” it said.

Meralco rates for this month were earlier expected to go down, with a household consuming 200 kWh to likely see a P50 cut in its monthly bill. This was due to a reduction in its overall electricity rates by P0.2483 per kWh to P8.7468/kWh from April’s P8.9951/kWh.

The company resumed reading the meters of its residential customers on May 8.

According to Meralco Spokesperson Joe R. Zaldarriaga, some March and all April bills were estimates based on the average daily consumption of customers over the previous three months, following the Distribution Services and Open Access Rules (DSOAR) issued by the Energy Regulatory Commission.

The apparent spike in electricity bills was due to various factors, the listed utility said. These include the increase in power consumption during the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) and the high May temperatures which led to the increased use of cooling appliances at home.

Asked for a reaction, Energy Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi told reporters in a virtual briefing that the department has also received complaints, noting that some customers expected that the May bill would be an average.

He added that the average consumption should not be “higher than the highest” consumption in the past 12 months.

“An average cannot be higher than the highest consumption in the previous months. Pero ‘yung bill na sinasabing average (But the bill that was supposed to be an average) is higher than the highest bill that they have received in the previous months,” Mr. Cusi said

The Department of Energy (DoE) is seeking a clarification with Meralco regarding its bills computation.

“We’ll just make sure na tama ang interpretation ng Meralco at the other DUs (that Meralco and the other distribution utilities’ interpretation is correct),” DoE Undersecretary William Felix B. Fuentebella said at the briefing.

Recent advisories from the ERC and the DoE ordered power stakeholders to extend the grace period earlier given for customers in areas still under ECQ.

They also both ordered the staggered payment of deferred bills during the quarantine period to be paid in four equal installments over the next four billing months as a policy aid.

Mr. Fuentebella noted that power companies should have the same implementation and understanding of its latest advisory.

‘Yung DoE, in-extend pa nga ang advisory doon sa chain. So dapat, pare-pareho ang implementation, pare-pareho ang understanding,” he said. (The DoE even extended its advisory for the energy supply chain. So, they must have the same implementation and understanding of the advisory.)

“Meralco promises to provide all the possible options for the utmost convenience of the consumer, bringing back a sense of normalcy and security in this time of uncertainty and turmoil, with the pandemic still affecting us all,” Mr. Zaldarriaga said. — Adam J. Ang