Meralco ordered to refund nearly P14-billion to consumers

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The Energy Regulatory Commission directed Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) on Friday to refund P13.89 billion in over-recoveries based on its actual weighted average tariff charges (AWAT) from July 2015 to November 2020. 

This comes around two months after Meralco applied for the approval of its final refund scheme based on the calculation of its AWAT compared to the ERC’s approved interim average rate (IAR).

In a statement on Friday, the ERC said it had released the order for Meralco to refund P13.89 billion worth of its over-recoveries, which was equivalent to an average of PhP0.1528 per kilowatt-hour (kWh), in 24 months or until the amount has been fully returned to customers.

“The Commission approved Meralco’s prayer for the issuance of a provisional authority in order to allow their customers to immediately enjoy the benefits of the proposed refund and provide immediate rate relief especially during this time of pandemic,” ERC chairperson and chief executive officer Agnes VST Devanadera was quoted as saying in a statement.

In the order, the ERC told Meralco to reflect the refund as a separate line item in the power bills of consumers. Those from the customer classes of Residential and General Service A, General Service B, and General Power would receive a refund of P0.2761/kWh, P0.1811/kWh and P0.0789/kWh, respectively, it said.

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The ERC noted the refund was “without prejudice to the outcome of the final evaluation of the application after completion of both technical and legal proceedings.

The regulator said its provisional authority extended only to the refund of the amount which Meralco applied for. 

As of press time, the order is not yet available for viewing on the ERC website.

Last month, Meralco Head of Utility Economics Lawrence S. Fernandez explained that the AWAT was based on Meralco’s distribution charges, which increased during the pandemic. During the global health emergency, the distribution rate differed from the interim average rate (IAR), as residential households consumed more power, he said. 

Mr. Fernandez earlier said that Meralco resolved to ask the ERC to refund the difference between its AWAT and IAR to consumers.

In a separate statement, Energy Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi said that the result of Meralco’s CSP was “very encouraging, and that it would help in lowering the power rates of consumers.”

He added: “The CSP is a work in progress, which aims to help us achieve electricity tariff levels that are both affordable and competitive enough to attract both foreign and local investors to do business in the Philippines.” 

Meralco’s controlling stakeholder, Beacon Electric Asset Holdings, Inc., is partly owned by PLDT, Inc. Hastings Holdings, Inc., a unit of PLDT Beneficial Trust Fund subsidiary MediaQuest Holdings, Inc., which has interest in BusinessWorld through the Philippine Star Group, which it controls.

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