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Meralco deployment of smart meters could raise its power rates

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By Myrna M. Velasco

The long planned deployment of advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) of Manila Electric Company (Meralco) is seen raising its electricity charges to customers at the scale of P0.2309 per kilowatt hour.

(KJ ROSALES / MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO

(KJ ROSALES / MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO

AMI infrastructure is in the genre of smart or ‘intelligent’ meters that could promote demand-side management on electricity usage because of the two-way communication system that serves as a tool for consumers to manage their consumption.

But the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) has cautioned that this will not be coming without an added price for consumers, hence, the agency has been re-assessing the impact this will have on power subscribers’ electric bills.

In the case of biggest power utility Meralco, in particular, this would redound to an increase of P0.2309 per kWh in the electric bills of its customers – if shared across brackets of end-users.

However, if the adjustment will only be confined to Meralco bulk customers that will then underpin the Retail Competition and Open Access (RCOA) phase of the industry, the average increase will be as much as P0.3972 per kWh.

ERC Chairperson Agnes T. Devanadera said if and when the deployment of the new meters will be concretized, the additional charges relative to that technology choice would be added in the electric bills of consumers.

Aside from Meralco, the other power utility that already sounded off plans to roll out advanced meters is Visayan Electric Company (VECO) of the Aboitiz group.

The regulatory scrutiny of cost impact though is directed at Meralco for now – as it targets to undertake massive scale rollout of smart meters once the ERC approves its application.

The utility firm has been batting to modernize its meters onto the ‘smart’ tech domain, so consumers can be better apprised on their consumption because these provide capabilities for them to track their usage and these are also the more efficient type of meters.

The rules of the ERC on the smart meters’ deployment set forth that “the cost of all meters, devices, hardware, software and processes necessary to implement the approved AMI project – whether offering basic and/or supplemental services, may be passed on to consumers subject to the applicable rules.”

That prompted the regulatory body then to exercise prudence in approving planned rollout of AMI – especially if such will entail adjustment to pass-on tariff to consumers.

Devanadera emphasized that while the ERC welcomes “these state-of-the-art technologies that will help consumers manage their electricity consumption …we must see to it that the installation of these AMI should not adversely affect the consumers in terms of paying higher electricity rates.”

The AMI will be the next phase of smart meters rollout of Meralco, following its trailblazing market introduction of prepaid electricity metering system to consumers within targeted areas.

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