MANILA, Philippines—Manila Electric Co. (Meralco), the country’s biggest power distributor, plans to start by July this year the implementation of a pilot project that will test the viability of the prepaid retail electricity scheme among an initial 40 households in Angono, Rizal.
In an interview, Alfredo S. Panlilio, senior vice president and head of customer retail services at Meralco, said that from an initial 40 households that agreed to participate, the distribution utility is targeting to increase the number of participants to as many as 400 during the six-month pilot testing period.
“We want to make sure we will be able to get adequate feedback and insights from our customers. We want to take a look at what is going to happen in terms of full customer experience such as in loading of power credits, the technical aspects, consumer habits, among others. We are now in the process of recruiting volunteers,” Panlilio told the Inquirer.
The pilot activities will also test the viability of the existing prepaid platform, the prepaid meters and the various vending solutions that may be deployed. More importantly, the pilot tests will determine if the prepaid retail electricity scheme will not only be a good business case for Meralco, but if it can also provide lasting benefits to its customers.
“The implementation of the pilot phase is key to our decision to pursue the prepaid retail electricity scheme because it will give us a good picture of what customers expect from the service, and at the same time give us internally comfort on the business case and hopefully, we can show the value of this initiative to the Energy Regulatory Commission,” Panlilio added.
Meralco is awaiting clearance from the Energy Regulatory Commission, or ERC, to be able to start the pilot-testing activities. It is also still in discussions with the regulator for the “mechanics” in terms of, for example, the sale of prepaid cards, if these would be currency denominated and if the kilowatt-hours will be determined at the point of consumption, as well as in terms of the recovery of the costs of prepaid meters.
The initial prepaid meters to be used by Meralco are “demo units,” according to Panlilio, and are not part of the 40,000 prepaid meters approved for acquisition. The timing of the acquisition will rely on how successful the pilot phase will be and, eventually, market demand.
The prepaid retail electricity service is one of the innovations introduced by the ERC so that consumers can have more power to control their electricity bills.
Under the prepaid meter scheme, subscribers can monitor their electricity consumption in real time while their meter systems can warn them if and when the load is nearing zero to avoid automatic disconnection.—Amy R. Remo