THE ERC (Energy Regulatory Commission) said it lowered the threshold for participating in the retail competition and open access (RCOA) scheme to users with average monthly peak demand of between 500 kW (kilowatts) and 749 kW in the past year.

In a statement Monday, the ERC said it passed a resolution allowing such customers to choose their power providers “on a voluntary basis” starting February.

Two months ago, the ERC set a timetable to fully implement the RCOA scheme within three years, by introducing more contestable customers in batches. Contestable customers are end-users who can choose their supplier of electricity.

The ERC’s disclosure of the draft resolution at the time called for consumers with average monthly peak usage of 500 to 749 kW — a category known as the Phase III threshold level — to be allowed to switch to another power provider starting Feb. 26.

According to the draft, end-users with 100 kW to 499 kW of consumption, classified as Phase IV, can also do the same starting Jan. 26, 2022 while consumers with 10 kW to 99 kW, which make up Phase V, may start on Jan. 26, 2023.

“Based on the said threshold, all qualified end-users can be considered as contestable customers under the Phase III threshold level (500 kW-749 kW) and shall be allowed to switch to the Competitive Retail Electricity Market (CREM) starting 26 February 2021,” the ERC said in its statement Monday.

The energy regulator’s decision to expand the RCOA scheme’s coverage is authorized by the Electric Power Industry Reform Act’s goal to achieve competition at the retail or end-user level, the ERC said.

“Promoting robust and fair competition among the market participants is definitely one of the significant considerations that the ERC is eyeing which can help boost further the country’s economy especially in the power industry during this trying times,” ERC Chairperson and CEO Agnes VST Devanadera said in a statement.

With the RCOA scheme, the ERC expects stronger competition and a cheaper and more reliable supply of electricity for consumers in the coming years, Ms. Devanadera added.

At present, the RCOA scheme applies to the Luzon and Visayas grids. — Angelica Y. Yang