BENECO still charges cheapest power rates

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BAGUIO CITY – The Benguet Electric Cooperative (BENECO) remains to be one of the electric cooperatives (ECs) in the country that charge the cheapest power rates from its member-consumer-owners (MCOs) amidst the sudden increase in the generation charge and the present leadership crisis with two general managers clinging to a single post.

Based on the data that had been gathered from the various ECs in Luzon as reflected in the August billing of their consumers, BENECO charges P9.4001 per kilowathour from its MCOs which is among the cheapest in the Luzon grid compared to the charges of the Kalinga-Apayao electric Cooperative (KAELCO) – P12.0205/kwh, Mountain Province electric Cooperative (MOPRECO) – P12.9205/kwh, Ilocos Norte Electric Cooperative (INEC) – P9.8504/kwh, Ilocos Sur Electric Cooperative (ISECO) – P10.2405/kwh, La Union electric Cooperative (LUELCO) – P11.1134/kwh, Pangasinan Electric Cooperative (PANELCO) I – P9.5847/kwh and PANELCO III – 10.6338. Only the Central Pangasinan Electric Cooperative (CENPELCO) charged their consumers with a power rate lower than BENECO which is around P9.3950/kwh.

Earlier, BENECO received the Ace of Tariff Award from the Philippine Rural Electric Cooperatives Association (PHILRECA) for charging the cheapest power rate from its consumers on the grid as reflected on the data provided by the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC). The award negates the misinformation being circulated by some quarters that its power charges are high.

For August billing alone, residential consumers consuming more than 46 kWh will pay P9.4007 per kilowatt hour (kwh) which means that for a household that will consume 100 kwh, it will have to pay P940.00.

The rates in July and June was P8.5989 and P8.4918 per kwh, respectively. Starting in February this year, the bill has increased by an average of P0.2232 per kwh.

The uptick was traced mainly to the increase in generation cost, referring to the component of the monthly bill used to pay Team Energy, the power generation company that supplies electricity to BENECO’s more than 140,000 consumers.

BENECO and Team Energy’s power supply agreement requires BENECO’s consumers to pay a generation cost P3.85/kwh from January to June and P3.80/kwh from July to December for as long as the price of coal is within the range of US $66 per metric ton (MT) to US $123/MT.

The electric cooperative passed on to its member consumers very low generation cost for more than three quarters last year as the coal price went lower than $66 per MT when the global demand for electricity dropped as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Engr. Melchor S. Licoben, General Manager Officer-in-Charge, said the revival of businesses activities that hit rock bottom during the lockdown period caused a sudden surge in the demand for electricity, pushing sky high the price of coal in the global market.

“We have a very favorable power supply agreement with Team Energy since it guaranteed our customers a least cost generation for as long as the agreed bandwidth on the price of coal is not breached,” he said.

Member consumers will also have to pay two additional line items in their bill beginning this August – the payment of P0.0696 per kwh for Incremental Currency Exchange Rate Adjustment (ICERA) and P0.1948 for Generation Rate Adjustment Mechanism (GRAM), both inclusive of value added tax (VAT).

The ICERA covers changes in the foreign exchange rate while the GRAM is an adjustment for fuel costs that seeks to absorb changes in fuel costs.

The Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) has directed BENECO to collect the adjustment charges pursuant to the ERC’s regulatory decisions in the cases that covered the 16th to 17th ICERA test period and the 10th to 17th GRAM test period.

The additional dues, however, will only affect the consumers during the period July, 2009 to April, 2010 for the ICERA and the consumers for January, 2007 to April, 2010 for the GRAM.

Rowina Damian, BENECO’s rate officer, said that apart from the generation cost, the transmission charge for August, 2021 also increased by P0.1138/kWh due to the increase in the cost of ancillary services charges.

The ancillary charges are remitted to the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP), the franchise holder of the country’s transmission grid.

“But the distribution, supply and metering charges have remained. These are the charges that BENECO collects for its operational expenses,” she said.

Licoben said consumers will surely rant over the timing of the rate increase.

“We do not want to burden our consumers but the reasons are beyond our control since we have no way to stop the increase in coal prices and we too cannot defy an ERC order. We ask for the understanding of our consumers.” he said.

Licoben stressed that BENECO does not keep any of the increases in the cost of generation and transmission charges since they are remitted to Team Energy and the NGCP, respectively. By HENT

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