ERC orders distribution utilities to expedite customer switching

THE Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) has ordered distribution utilities to promptly process the applications of customers switching to other retail suppliers, on threat of penalty.

According to the regulator, the Retail Competition and Open Access (RCOA) scheme, a program allowing entities with large power needs to choose their own providers, is still being implemented in Luzon and Visayas.

In an advisory published Wednesday, the ERC ordered distribution utilities to process within 20 days the switching requests from their huge customers. Failing to do so “without any valid justification” may subject them to penalties.

“Distribution utilities are directed to facilitate the necessary requirements for the customer switching within 20 days from the receipt of the information on the executed retail supply contract from the retail electricity supplier or contestable customer,” it said.

Last month, the ERC reported a slight uptick in the number of power customers with more than 750 kilowatt-hours of usage in the contestable retail electricity market in the second quarter, though they contracted lower levels of supply during the period due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

The ERC said this meant that more buyers have “opted to enjoy the benefits” of the RCOA, which is authorized by the Electric Power Industry Reform Act.

The weighted average price of power fell to P3.95 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) in June and P3.97/kWh in May from P4.12/kWh in April.

These developments were a “silver lining in the midst of this COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) pandemic,” ERC Chairperson Agnes VST Devanadera has said.

At the end of June, there were 2,089 registered customers with contestability certificates, 70% of which have entered into retail supply contracts, while the rest are still powered by their respective distribution utilities. — Adam J. Ang

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