Meralco hastens rollout of 'advanced metering' infrastructure to prevent bill shock

Jessica Fenol, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 01 2020 03:36 PM | Updated as of Sep 01 2020 07:07 PM

Electrical meters with countless electrical wires hanging near residences in Barangay Addition Hills, Mandaluyong City on February 19, 2019. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA - The Manila Electric Co said Tuesday it would submit its smart utility road map and hasten the rollout of an advanced metering infrastructure and other technologies to enhance operations.

Meralco has been implementing the use of smart meters in several areas and is looking at "rolling on a wider basis," its head of Utility Economics Larry Fernandez said during a Senate hearing on the extension of lifeline subsidies for electric bills.

"We are preparing the rollout of smart meters on a wider basis… A gradual rollout of smart meters that we have been implementing to expand that to more areas," Fernandez said.

Fernandez said the utility distributor has submitted to the Energy Regulatory Commission its plan for the rollout of smart meters in 2017 and 2018. The ERC has been asking for more information, which Meralco has yet to provide, he said.

A smart utility road map will also be submitted to the Department of Energy, which will include the rollout of other smart technologies and the use of automated metering, he said.

The company has been facing complaints due to "bill shocks" after consumers said they have received excessively high electric bills which were based on estimates during the COVID-19 lockdowns.

Meralco suspended meter reading when a coronavirus lockdown was imposed in March.

To prevent further bill shocks, the ERC has put in place several measures such as continued monitoring, its lawyer Chiara Blanco said during the hearing. Several email addresses for specific billing complaints are also accessible to help consumers, she said.

Fernandez assured lawmakers that Meralco was looking at ways "to provide financial relief" to consumers.

Meralco earlier said it would extend its "no disconnection" policy until the end of October.