House probe into Meralco’s ‘vague’ losses, charges eyed

SURIGAO del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers yesterday called for a legislative inquiry into power distribution firm Meralco’s basis in incorporating vague renewable energy, system loss and other charges that seem redundant and add substantially  to the consumers’ burden of monthly electric bills.

In House Resolution (HR) No. 00228 filed last August 14, Barbers urged the House Committee on Energy to check  Meralco’s enumerated power charges with the end in view of providing the public a better understanding of what they were paying for every month.

“It is hoped that the probe would also provide Congress an insight to guide it in crafting responsive legislation to address the perennial problem of the high energy cost,” said Barbers.

On the issue of system loss charges, he said it will be unfair for Meralco to charge the consumers even when they actually are not drawing electric energy.

According to reports, there are two types of system loss that Meralco charges to consumers  -- one is technical loss arising from the characteristics of electrical equipment and materials in the physical delivery of electric energy, including conductor loss and transformer core loss; and the other is due to non-technical loss such as electricity theft and pilferage.

“Technical loss is fixed and quantifiable. But system loss due to electricity theft and pilferage and which are being charged to the power consumers is unfair. We the consumers are paying a high price from an electric energy stolen or pilfered by other people,” said Barbers.

“This has made Meralco complacent and always turning a blind eye to the rampant and evident illegal power connections in its electrical lines. It is a grave injustice to consumers who have no participation in now knowledge of the extent and existence of such illegal connections,” he added.

On the issue of renewable energy charges, Barbers said it had been added to the monthly electric bills of consumers without proper information, explanation and prior notice.

On January 1 this year, Barbers said the Energy Regulatory Commission, despite pending petition before the Supreme Court, released its provisional approval of the feed-in tariff allowance (FIT-All or renewable energy charges) billing for all on-grid electricity consumers.

He said the consumers will pay starting this month an additional P0.406 ($0.0091*) per kilowatt hour (kWh) in electricity rates, ERC said in its 27-page decision released January 1.

The rate will be collected from electricity end-users, reflected as a separate item in their electricity bills, as mandated by the Renewable Energy Act of 2008 (RA 9513), according to him.

The FIT-All is set as an incentive for renewable energy (RE) developments such as those on wind, run-of-river hydro, solar, and biomass facilities, he said.

In October 2014, Barbers recalled that the ERC issued an order provisionally approving the application of the National Transmission Corporation (TransCo) to collect FIT-All payments.

Barbers said wind power developers are entitled to FIT rate of P8.53 ($0.19) per kWh; solar for P9.68 ($0.22) per kWh; hydro at P5.90 ($0.13) per kwh; and biomass at P6.63 ($0.15) per kWh.

Barbers said there seems to be some flaws in the manner of imposition of renewable energy charges by the power distribution firms which include Meralco and electric cooperatives.

“It appears that consumers rights had been violated here, for they would be paying for power that has yet to be generated and consumed. Para silang nagbebenta ng panaginip, na pinababayaran na agad sa mga  consumers,” said Barbers.