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  • By : Delmar O. Cariño
  • May 07, 2020

Estimated billing is average billing

We didn’t quite expect the backlash against BENECO’s decision to issue the bills of consumers based on estimated billing.

A lot made a fuss about it when the bills for March and April bore the bold word “ESTIMATE,” triggering one common reaction – why did the electric cooperative decide to estimate the electric consumption?

We understand where the consumers are coming from. Estimate means “to judge tentatively or approximately the value, worth or significance of something.” What dawned upon them was that BENECO could have simply approximated the consumption of the consumers by juggling the kilowatt hours on those dates when our haggard but tireless meter reading gentlemen were restrained from going on field due to the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).

But estimated billing is actually average billing. How do you arrive at that? Get the actual consumption of the consumer as captured in the meter for the last three months and divide them by three. The result is the average. Such approach is allowed by the Distribution Services and Open Access Rules or the so-called DSOAR which the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) has issued to govern the meter reading, billing and disconnection services of electric cooperatives in the country.

Reading by average is used when due to reasons beyond the control of the electric cooperative, such as war and force majeure, the EC could not physically go and read meters. The Covid 19 pandemic is such a case. It triggered the government to issue a declaration for ECQ which the EC could not prevent. The unseen enemy put a stop to most of human activities. And meter reading was no exception. But since the people continue to use electricity, the use of such energy must still be measured. Came estimated reading.

Sec. 3.5.4 of the DSOAR says that the word “ESTIMATE” must be written on the bill. The rules did not say use the word “AVERAGE” or “AVERAGE READING” that could be at least consoling for those who griped that their bills were not actually read or pacifying for those who misconstrued by literal meaning the word “ESTIMATE.”

For the ECs and DSOAR, reading by estimate and reading by average mean the same thing. But for consumers. There could be a disconnect especially when the ECs massive efforts to explain what estimated billing is all about have failed to reach them.

But we wish to reiterate the fact and rest assured that we didn’t guess our numbers when we said “ESTIMATE.”