Issue of June 18, 2017
     
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BENECO to offer pre–paid electricity
by Hanna C. Lacsamana

Next month, Baguio and Benguet electricity consumers will have the option to purchase credits for electricity use in retail – similar with how mobile phone credit loading services work – with the plan of the Benguet Electric Cooperative to offer its service through pre-paid metering.

Beneco announced that it will start offering the Prepaid Retail Electronic Service (PRES) with the Energy Regulation Commission’s issuance of rules to be adopted by distribution utilities (DUs)in making the prepaid metering service available to its consumers as an alternative to the traditional post-paid service.

Beneco Network Department Manager Delfin Cachin said the PRES is a system designed to allow a customer to purchase credit and then use electricity until such time as the credit is exhausted.

He said Beneco is adopting the meter-based or offline setup, which uses prepaid meters that inter-operate with a vending machine or kiosk that generates a 20-digit reference number or code that will be entered by the consumer into the meter.

The prepaid electricity meter system will have the capability to load the purchased energy, display real time information on how the load is consumed, and give warning that the load is close to zero, providing a sufficient buffer before electricity is completely disconnected.

Beneco will deploy 1,000 prepaid meters this year and will start its installation next month for the test run. As required under ERC rules, the DU will seek for ERC’s approval before the PRES go full blast.

The prepaid metering system is advantageous for DUs in terms of reduction of system losses, savings on service disconnection and reconnection fees, elimination of meter readers, improved collection efficiency, and better cash flow.

The system is favorable to consumers who frequently travel and leave their residences and offices for a time. Budget-conscious residential consumers can control their electricity consumption better. Consumers may opt to buy electric energy in reasonably small increments.

It is also beneficial to lessors since it will eliminate unpaid electricity bills left by errant tenants, while lessees need not apply electricity connection.

The ERC also said the prepaid retailing of electricity will help curb system losses, which has been cited as a major cause for the high price of electricity in the country.

Based on a survey of 36,508 Beneco consumer-respondents, 92 percent does not approve the use of the prepaid service, seven percent says yes, while one percent is undecided.

Cachin said the service will be at the option of the customer, who can apply for a PRES if they so decide. ERC rules provide that a trial period be allowed to give them the opportunity to assess the impact of using the same. After the trial period, the customer may enter into a prepaid contract with the DU with a retention period of 24 months or revert to being post-paid.


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