By Myrna M. Velasco | Manila Bulletin

If contestable customers or those end-users exercising “power of choice” in the retail market would wish so, the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) is extending them regulatory permission to opt for a dual or multiple billing system – which will go beyond the “single billing system” conventionally employed for this segment of consumers.

“A contestable customer may choose from single or dual/multiple billing schemes,” the industry regulator has stipulated, albeit that comes with prescription that the end-user must “maintain the chosen billing period for at least one year” and such must be duly specified in the retail supply contract (RSC) with the power supplier.

As a matter of industry practice, the customers with choice under the retail competition and open access (RCOA) policy, are served by the retail electricity suppliers (RES) licensed by the ERC.

Contestability or “the exercise of power of choice” is currently confined among end-users within the 1.0-megawatt usage bracket and done on voluntary basis – given the pending cases at the courts on this policy prescription.

Under a single billing system, the customer will receive “just one consolidated bill” as issued by the RES.

Conversely, in dual or multiple billing system, the customer shall be able to receive separate bills from the RES, the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM) if applicable; and from its network service provider (NSP) which refers to the transmission operator or the distribution utility that have been part of the service chain in providing the end-user that power supply.

The billing of a power retail customer generally have the following components: For the RES charges, it shall include generation charge, supplier’s charge, government taxes and WESM net settlement surplus (WESM-NSS) allocation.

For the distribution wheeling service (DWS) charges, the itemized billing shall reflect: Transmission charge, distribution charge, standard connection charge, supply charge, metering charge, system loss charge, local franchise tax, senior citizen discount, lifeline rate subsidy, value-added tax, universal charge, feed-in-tariff allowance (FIT-All) charge as well as other charges and adjustments approved by the ERC.

If done on a single billing system, the ERC specified that “the RES merely acts as a collecting agent for the DWS charges in behalf of the network service provider and shall be responsible for settling said charges for the latter.”

Comparatively, in the multiple billing platform, the network service provider, the WESM and RES “shall render separate bills to the contestable customer,” according to the ERC.

Under this set-up, the contestable customer will need to make separate payments to the network service provider, the RES and WESM within timeframes stipulated in their contracts.

Non-payment of charges on time shall also allow service providers to impose penalties or “late charges” to the retail power customer.