The Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) said Friday that the number of cases it concluded in 2020 rose 21%, aided by the adoption of videoconferencing for its hearings.

In a statement, the ERC said it wrapped up 748 cases in 2020, compared to 617 in 2019. The commission said it also issued more orders, decisions, resolutions, notices, and certificates of approval and authority last year.

“The ERC continued to conduct hearings and conferences through virtual platforms to complete the legal proceedings that it should perform as part of its quasi-judicial functions,” the commission said in a statement.

Last year, the commission issued orders and advisories covering 10 rate reduction schemes, including the reduction in the system loss cap, which was lowered by P0.05 per kilowatt-hour (kWh); the refund of the over-recoveries of 64 distribution utilities (DUs) that amounted to P3.3 billion; and the lowering of the retail competition and open access threshold, among others.

In May, the ERC ordered DUs to allow their customers consuming 200 kWh and below in February to pay their power bills on a staggered basis of up to 6 equal monthly installments during the government-imposed lockdown – without penalty, interest or other fees.

The agency had implemented the “Amended guidelines on electronic applications, filings and virtual hearings before the ERC” to govern electronic transactions.

“The Commission has embraced the ‘New Normal’ and we are thankful that online platforms abound to be explored and utilized to the fullest. We were surprised and happy to note that this pandemic even provided us the opportunity to optimize the use of digital technologies to continuously perform and deliver our mandate,” ERC chairperson and chief executive officer Agnes VST Devanadera said. — Angelica Y. Yang