The Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) has been urged to direct its refund order to the National Transmission Corporation (TransCo) and the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corporation (PSALM) being the administrator-entities of the feed-in-tariff allowance (FIT-All) and the universal charge-environmental charge (UC-EC) components in the electric bills.
The Philippine Rural Electric Cooperatives Association Inc. (PHILRECA) indicated that the collection of its member-electric cooperatives on the FIT-All and UC-EC costs had been correspondingly remitted to TransCo and PSALM, hence, any mandate for pay-back to customers must instead be channeled to them.
TransCo is the duly designated administrator of the FIT Fund, hence, all collections of FIT-All charges that are intended to incentivize qualified renewable energy (RE) installations are being remitted to it by the distribution utilities and ECs.
By the same token, PSALM is managing collections of the universal charges – including UC-EC; and the amounts are also transmitted to it by the DUs, retail suppliers or the transmission operator that have been serving as collecting agents.
On the suspension of collection of these charges during the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) and modified ECQ because of the coronavirus pandemic, PHILRECA pointed out that “FIT-All and UC-EC are pass-on charges, and not a single centavo is retained to the electric cooperatives.”
It is on the tenet of that industry arrangement that it prompted the ERC to instead “order the concerned agencies (TransCo and PSALM) to refund the collected charges and make appropriate arrangement with the distribution utilities on how to refund the same to the consumers.”
The electric cooperatives further indicated there is no way they can use these collected amounts for their own operations, as their role in the pass-through of such charges are just mere “collecting agents.”
PHILRECA similarly clarified that stoppage of collections of the FIT-All and UC-EC had not been immediately complied with by some ECs, because at the time the ERC orders were issued, their respective billings were already printed and sent to their customers.
The ECs specified though that they ceased pass-on of such charges in their subsequent billing cycles as compliance to the orders of the regulatory body.
In particular, “for succeeding billing periods (June onwards), electric cooperatives heeded the call of the ERC regarding the suspension of collection of UC-EC charges,” PHILRECA stressed.
For the FIT-All, the group stated that “the billing statements of our consumers have been printed and distributed already when the Commission released the order in April 15, 2020.”
ERC Spokesperson Floresinda B. Digal indicated that around 12 power utilities will likely be served with show-cause orders (SCOs) so they can be held accountable or be provided with a window to explain what has been deemed as “non-compliance” to the ERC advisories on the suspension of the FIT-All and UC-EC charges during the lockdown period.
On plea that the refund edict should rather be tossed to TransCo and PSALM, the ERC official said they have yet to study that proposition.