By Charissa Luci-Atienza
Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers is seeking a congressional probe on Manila Electric Company’s supposed “redundant” power charges passed on to consumers.
He said the Lower Chamber should look into the power distribution firm’s act of incorporating vague renewable energy, system loss and other charges in the consumers’ monthly electric bills, which he described as “substantial burden.”
“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,” Barbers said in filing House Resolution No. 228
The House probe would likewise provide “the public a better understanding of what they were paying for every month.”
Under HR 228, Barbers urged the Committee on Energy, chaired by Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Jay Velasco to investigate Meralco’s enumerated power charges, including the “unfair” system loss charges.
He said the consumers should not be charged, especially when they actually are not drawing electric energy.
Citing reports, he noted 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,” Barbers said.
“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 nor knowledge of the extent and existence of such illegal connections,” he added.
Additional P0.406 per kWh
Barbers criticized Meralco for adding the renewable energy charges to the monthly electric bills of consumers “without proper information, explanation and prior notice.”
“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 (They’re like selling a dream and let the consumers pay for it),” he said.
Barbers noted that on January 1 this year, the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC), provisionally approved the feed-in tariff allowance (FIT-All or renewable energy charges) billing for all on-grid electricity consumers, despite pending petition before the Supreme Court.
According to the ERC’s 27-page decision released January 1, the consumers will pay starting this month an additional P0.406 ($0.0091*) per kilowatt hour (kWh) in electricity rates.
“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). 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,” Barbers noted.
He recalled that in October 2014, ERC issued an order provisionally approving the application of the National Transmission Corporation (TransCo) to collect FIT-All payments.
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, based on the 2014 ERC order.
“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,” Barbers said.