‘Kinks’ delay rollout of prepaid electricity
Manila Electric Co. (Meralco), the country’s biggest power distributor, has moved to July 2014 the commercial launch of its prepaid retail electricity scheme in the residential sector, as it continued to thresh out potential “kinks” in the system.
Alfredo S. Panlilio, senior vice president and head of customer retail services of Meralco, explained that they were still conducting the technical pilot tests, which began early this year, for some 100 households in Rizal.
Meralco also needed time to prepare and set up the network to ensure the connectivity of the smart meters.
After these technical tests, Meralco will then conduct a “commercial pilot” for about three months starting 2014, covering as many as 2,000 customers in Angono and Taytay town in Rizal province.
“We’re hoping the commercial pilot doesn’t last more than three months. But we want to make sure that this is what the consumers want. Under the commercial pilot tests, we will talk to the consumers regarding their prepaid experience and once we are able to finalize that, we can already start the commercial roll out,” Panlilio said on the sidelines of the Asia CEO Awards last week.
He further said that they would conduct by January a “sales blitz” and various on-the-ground activities in which Meralco will provide seminars to explain to interested customers how the prepaid system works.
Based on previous studies, Meralco expects to have some 40,000 customers from Rizal alone signing up for the prepaid electricity scheme under the commercial rollout, which may happen sometime in July or August 2014, Panlilio added.
The target customers are those households consuming 200-300 kilowatt-hours (kWh) monthly.
Meralco is also in talks to have more partners for the e-loading system to ensure the convenience of the customers. Being tapped were the telcos and the various business, payment and remittance centers within the company’s franchise area.
“We have started to talk to them and we want to finalize deals with those willing to sell load,” he said, adding that load may be offered in P200, P300, P500 and P1,000 denominations. Limits for loading will be imposed to prevent arbitrage, especially when electricity rates go down.
The prepaid retail electricity service, or PRES, is one of the innovations introduced by the Energy Regulatory Commission 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 could warn them if and when the load is nearing zero to avoid automatic disconnection.
In October last year, Meralco signed an agreement for the advanced metering infrastructure integrated solution project with GE, which would serve as the system integrator. Part of the package to be delivered by GE would allow Meralco to implement the prepaid electricity scheme, which was primarily aimed at helping power consumers effectively manage their energy use and expenses.
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