Rural utilities start meter reading for May bills

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electric meter ERC

POWER UTILITIES in the countryside have returned to using actual meter readings for computing their customers’ bills for May, their industry association said.

The Philippine Rural Electric Cooperatives Association (Philreca) said Monday that all 121 rural electric cooperatives (EC) have complied with the government’s advisories, including those of the Department of Energy and the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC), on billing and suspension of meter reading during the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).

In a report to the Joint Congressional Energy Committee hearing Friday, the association said 64 rural utilities based their May bills on actual meter readings as of May 19.

Some electric cooperatives resorted to estimating their customers’ bills for March and April, complying with the Distribution Services and Open Access Rules (DSOAR), because of mobility restrictions during the quarantine period.

“ERC has given instructions to use estimated billing to avoid the possibility of exposure to COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) in compliance with the Inter-Agency Task Force issuances,” the group said in a statement.

“As of this billing period, ECs have returned to using actual/physical meter reading and have started using such readings in their billing statements,” it added.

The ERC on Friday ordered distribution utilities (DUs) to allow their customers with consumption of 200 kilowatt-hours (kWh) and below in February to pay their unpaid bills, which were due in March to May, in six installments starting mid-June.

Those with above 200 kWh consumption must be allowed to pay their unpaid bills in four portions starting June 15, as well.

Philreca said electric cooperatives have informed their customers of the option to pay their unpaid bills in full or in installments without incurring interest, penalties, or the possibility of disconnection of service.

Responding to complaints on higher electricity charges during the quarantine period, rural utilities have sought to explain the factors contributing to high electricity consumption.

In a letter dated May 22, the ERC said it will penalize those distribution utilities (DU) that do not comply with its advisories.

“DUs that will be found and proven to have breached our directives during the national emergency and deviated from the intent of the President to alleviate the financial difficulties of the Filipino people during the crisis will be penalized through the imposition of appropriate fines pursuant to relevant rules and laws,” ERC Chairperson and Chief Executive Officer Agnes VST Devanadera said. — Adam J. Ang