By John Ezekiel J. Hirro

Manila Electric Co. (Meralco)  on Thursday reported that its first-half net income plunged to P6.8 billion from last year’s P12 billion largely due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Meralco invoked force majeure in April, citing various challenges amid the Covid-19 crisis, such as lower cash inflows, delayed capital expenditures and limitations caused by lockdowns.

It lowered its per-kilowatt-hour (kWh) rate for the fourth straight month in July, resulting in a lower average kWh rate in the first half of 2020 vs the same period last year.

From January to June, consumers paid P8.19/kwh, P1.06 lower than last year’s rate of P9.25/kWh.

Meralco’s system loss performance improved by 0.19 percentage points from last year and was 1.34 percentage points lower than the government’s cap of 7.25 percent.

The implementation of new power supply agreements, lower wholesale electricity spot market prices and the invocation of force majeure cut Meralco’s generation charges by 17 percent and transmission charges by 2 percent.

As a result of the decrease in generation and transmission charges, a 21-percent decrease in system loss charges was also recorded.

More than P1.8 billion was removed from customer payments due to the invocation of force majeure.

Meralco Chairman Manuel Pangilinan said he remained committed to “keep the lights on” as more households have become workstations in the “new normal.”

“[T]he entire Meralco organization is committed to and will remain relentless in ensuring network reliability, customer care and workplace integrity. We also reiterate our commitment to sustainability and to powering the good life as well,” he said.