THE Visayan Electric Company (Veco) started offering prepaid electricity yesterday.

The City of Naga was identified as the pilot area for the new program.

Veco corporate communications manager Teresa Gonzales Sederiosa said they are targeting 100 connections in the pilot area for six months.

During that period, Veco will also assess whether the scheme will be acceptable to consumers.

But Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) 7 Director Joel Bontuyan said that Veco should file a petition with the commission regarding the implementation of the program.

“We chose Naga as pilot area because it is very receptive of this prepaid scheme, which is similar to a prepaid phone. With prepaid electricity, the people will learn to save power and budget the use of power,” Sederiosa told reporters during the Association of Government Information Officers (AGIO) 7 forum yesterday.

Sederiosa said that prepaid electricity is ideal for units that are being rented out or small commercial establishments, but not ideal for customers with large consumption.

“It is purely voluntary, only for those who want to avail of it,” Sederiosa said.

Sederiosa said that Veco installed 24 prepaid meters in May 2014 in Barangay Tuyan in Naga but the market did not take off. Only seven meters were activated.

The second batch of prepaid meters was installed last January at the City of Naga East Plaza Arcade.

“This time, we activated 16 commercial accounts out of the 24 meters that we installed. We are currently working on 32 elementary schools in the City of Naga to be converted to prepaid,” Sederiosa said.

But Bontuyan said that before Veco can fully implement the program, it needs to file a petition before the commission.

ERC will call for a series of public hearings to collect the public's opinion on the new scheme.

Bontuyan, who was in the same AGIO 7 Forum, said that anybody can participate in ERC hearings and interested parties can give their inputs on any petition.

Bontuyan said that prepaid electricity is not new in the power industry and that ERC's rules on the matter have been in place since 2009.