CONSUMER advocacy group Laban Konsyumer Inc. (LKI) has asked the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) to order the Manila Electric Company (Meralco) to stop collecting from consumers the additional cost impact of the 24-day Malampaya shutdown.

In a letter to ERC Chairperson Agnes Devanadera, LKI President Victorio Mario Dimagiba asked the agency to immediately initiate moto proprio hearings on the added costs and, pending said hearings, to immediately issue a provisional authority to stop Meralco from implementing the power rate hike.

“We have proposed to the Senate Committee on Energy to compel the Malampaya consortium, and not the consumers, to bear the cost impact of the shutdown that effectively increased the cost of power from the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM) and Independent Power Producers (IPPs).

We even suggested that the ERC and Department of Energy be allowed to invoke their mandate to source funds and to shield consumers from these unwarranted additional costs.

All of the above suggestions had fallen on deaf ears and we in LKI are disappointed in the show of indifference by all the above institutions to the prejudice of the consumers who will now absorb added costs on their power bills,” Dimagiba said in his letter.

Meralco announced last week a P0.3256 per kilowatt hour (kWh) increase in overall electricity rates brought about by a P0.2911 per kWh increase in the generation charge. The generation charge went up due to lesser available generation capacity in the WESM, and its IPPs’ shift to a more expensive fuel.

Dimagiba added the supply contracts between the Malampaya consortium and the generation companies should also be investigated, and to hold the Malampaya consortium accountable for the additional costs incurred because of the persistent gas restrictions and maintenance shutdowns.

“If we do not consider the Distribution Rate True-Up Refund amounting to P0.2761/kWh and the deferred collection of generation costs of about P0.52/kWh arrange with suppliers, Meralco customers would have been forced to pay for more expensive electricity rates this month,” said Dimagiba.

The deferred charge of P0.52/kWh will be billed to consumers on a staggered basis over a period of four months until March next year.

“We hope the Commission would consider these recommendations and provisionally stop these additional costs that burden the consumers amid the prolonged pandemic,” added Dimagiba.

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