A RESOLUTION calling for an investigation on the sudden spike in Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) electricity charges has been filed in the House of Representatives.

“Several media reports quoted electric consumers complaining about their Meralco bills that have tripled, for some, even quadrupled, despite their present low consumption, as well as in previous months,” the Makabayan bloc said in House Resolution 879 filed on Monday.

“Such high and unconscionable electric bills, only added more anxiety to many, especially now when most people are in dire straits to survive the harsh effects of the crisis brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic,” it added.

The resolution cited a P0.105 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) increase to P8.995 from P8.890 for the month of April, equivalent to a P21 increase in the total bill of “typical” residential consumers who consume an average of 200 kWh.

“The recent Meralco justification that the surge in electricity bills of consumers is a result of higher consumption, is questionable especially since President [Rodrigo R.] Duterte reported a downward trend in demand during the lockdown period,” Bayan Muna Party-List Rep. Carlos Isagani T. Zarate said in a statement on Monday.

Mr. Zarate cited the President’s report to Congress on May 11, saying that “major island grids exhibited excess capacity over peak demand with Luzon at 23% [2,683 MW (megawatts)], Visayas 28% [718 MW] and Mindanao at 30%.”

“So how can consumption increase when the demand is going down as we enter the summer period?” Mr. Zarate asked.

The Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) on Monday ordered Meralco to explain its calculation for its past customers’ monthly billings from March to May.

In a statement last week, Meralco addressed customers’ bill shock, saying that the May bill is the result of the actual electricity consumption in kWh from the current meter reading, plus the estimated consumption reflected in the deferred April and March bills.

The apparent spike in electricity rates was due to various factors, including the increase in power consumption during the lockdown and the high May temperature, which led to higher use of cooling appliances at home, Meralco said. — Genshen L. Espedido