DUs, coops directed to refund FIT-All, UC-EC charges during lockdown

Published July 8, 2020, 10:00 PM

by Myrna M. Velasco

The country’s private distribution utilities and electric cooperatives had been directed to refund the feed-in-tariff allowance (FIT-All) and universal charge-environmental charge (UC-EC) that they have collected during the March to May coronavirus pandemic lockdown in the country.

These two rate components will be among the pay-back they shall implement for the  electricity consumers; on top of the over-payments that they have also collected relative to the issuance of “estimated billings” at the height of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) and modified ECQ periods in various parts of the country.

Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) Spokesperson Floresinda B. Digal indicated they will issue an advisory on the mandated refund so the ratepayers could gain financial relief from these cost components in their electric bills; as well as on the over-payments from the estimated billings.

The order, she said, will not just cover power utility giant Manila Electric Company (Meralco) but all private DUs and electric cooperatives servicing customers all over the country.

She emphasized that based on their initial evaluation of complaints lodged by roughly 50,000 consumers served by various DUs and electric cooperatives nationwide, they established that there were power utilities which failed to comply with the ERC directives on suspension of pass-on of some rates components in the bill – primarily the FIT-All in March and April; then the UC-EC in May.

“We have noticed that there are DUs and ECs which were not able to follow the advisories that we issued – that’s why our directive now is, they should refund whatever amount they have collected for the FIT-All and UC-EC at the time of the ECQ and MECQ,” Digal stressed.

On March 18 or just several days after the enforcement of lockdown in Luzon, the ERC ordered that the pass-on of the P0.04 per kWh FIT-All charge in the bill shall temporarily cease – and that was targeted then to benefit all of 19.16 million consumers in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.

Last May, it has been the UC-environmental charge of P0.0025 per kWh that had been ordered for suspension, so ratepayers could also be given respite on that cost component in the bill.

“Our directive is for them (DUs and ECs) to refund the amounts they have collected and that must be done immediately,” the ERC official stressed.

And to ensure the power utilities’ compliance with the refund directive, they are correspondingly mandated to submit a report indicating details of the “pay back” process that they had instituted for their customers.

Beyond the directive for refund, Senate Committee on Energy Chairman Sherwin T. Gatchalian is also nudging the ERC to ensure penalty impositions against DUs and ECs that breached its stop-collection instructions.

The lawmaker primarily reproached ERC Chairperson Agnes T. Devanadera and called on the regulatory body to hold DUs accountable, especially the power utilities that caused the ‘bill shock nightmare’ of consumers.

He specifically quizzed the ERC chief on “what actions have you taken to penalize those who don’t follow your advisories and to help our consumers get refunds?”