By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE sole distribution utility in Iloilo City is set to introduce the prepaid retail electric service (PRES) to residential consumers.

Randy Pastolero, operations manager of Panay Electric Co. (PECo), said they are waiting for the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) to issue the rules and guidelines on the implementation of PRES.

“The ERC has approved the rules already and we are awaiting its issuance so we can study the implementation and draft our own internal system. Once we have studied the rules, we will notify our consumers about the new system,” Pastolero said.

PRES is an electric service that uses a prepaid metering system designed to allow a residential customer to purchase credit or load and then use electricity until such time his load is exhausted.

The ERC approved the rules on PRES July 13 after a series of consultations since last year.

Pastolero said they see several advantages in the implementation of PRES.

“Primarily, it will compel consumers to manage their power consumption which will redound to more efficient generation and distribution of electricity. It will also curb, if not eliminate, power pilferage resulting in lower systems losses. Lower systems losses will mean reduction of additional charges on consumers,” he said.

The ERC allows distribution utilities and electric cooperatives to charge consumers for systems losses or electricity lost in distribution lines due to pilferage and other technical reasons.

Power distributors can only collect a maximum of 9.5% systems losses charges on monthly bills.

Power utilities will also reduce their overhead expenses with the implementation of PRES because “we don’t have to employ meter readers,” Pastolero said.

“Our manpower will shrink because of the prepaid retail system and we will eliminate incidence of wrong meter readings which is common in the traditional metering system,” he added. 

Pastolero said a firm supplying digital prepaid electric meters in the US has presented its product to them recently.

The digital prepaid meter features a magnetic strip which will scan and load electricity prepaid cards.

“The load in the prepaid card will convert the amount to allowable kilowatt per hour based on the prevailing rates. Once loaded, the meter will turn on and supply electricity. We are also studying other prepaid metering technologies,” Mr. Pastolero said.

PECo will require the meter supplier to be accredited and their gadgets calibrated by the ERC.

“Our only concern is that the cost of the digital prepaid meters might affect the operations cost of the distribution utility. From what we learned, the digital meter is triple the price of traditional meters. Maybe the ERC will allow us to gradually recover the costs in procuring the meters,” Pastolero said.

Pastolero said consumers can determine their consumption by calculating the wattage of their appliances and lights.

“PECo will devise a way to help the consumers calculate their consumption and the amount of prepaid card they will buy,” he added.