FICELCO’s math on ‘high’ power bills proven correct

Complaints about the ‘high’ power consumption for May 2020 waned last week after the management of the First Catanduanes Electric Cooperative, Inc. (FICELCO) successfully explained the cause through a detailed computation of how the billings came about.

At the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP) special meeting of the Committee on Energy chaired by PBM Edwin Tanael, FICELCO officials led by General Manager Engr. Raul Zafe used the actual billing records of complainant John Tarrobal, a barangay kagawad of Cabugao, to illustrate how the power consumption and billing increased last May 2020.

Tarrobal’s consumption of 202 kilowatt-hours for March was the average of his actual consumption in December 2019, January and February 2020 while that of April’s 252.33 kwh was the average of the actual consumption in November 2019, January and February 2020.

These March average was added to the actual previous reading of 38532, resulting in an estimated reading of 38734, to which the April average was added. This led to the estimated April reading of 38986.33.

The actual reading on May 2020 was 39409, from which the April estimated reading was subtracted, resulting in a power consumption of 422.67 kwh for the month.

Adding up the March and April estimated consumption of 202 and 252.33 kwh, respectively, to the May 2020 consumption of 422.67 kwh leads to a total consumption of 877 kwh, the exact difference between the actual March reading of 38532 and the actual May reading of 39409.

The management had previously explained that the March and April estimated consumption were “underbilled”, with the difference now carried over to the May computation based on the actual meter reading.

FICELCO also reported that most of the power it bought from its suppliers during the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ), which coincided with the onset of summer, came from the more expensive diesel generators. The diesel gensets provided 88 percent of the power in the grid while less than 12 percent came from the operating mini-hydroelectric plants of Balongbong and Solong.

However, this accounted for only a slight increase in the effective power rates, using the February rate of P11.5678/kwh for residential consumers. The March and April 2020 power rates were only 9.62 centavos and 11.15 centavos higher than the February figure, the management pointed out.

At the regular sessions of the Sangguniang Bayan of Virac and Pandan, the FICELCO team also convinced the councilors who raised the same issue that there was nothing wrong in the “abnormally high” May 2020 power billings.

They also explained that while there were no meter readings conducted in most residential and commercial users, as well as public buildings and streetlights, in March (save for northern towns) and April, the cooperative sent meter readers to big establishments and residential compounds with historically large consumptions such as the Virac malls, the Catanduanes State University (CATSU), the provincial capitol and other similar establishments.

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