HEROES OF OUR TIMES – IN THE POWER SECTOR (Part 1)

David Celestra Tan, MSK
29 November 2019

Part 1

The way we the electric consumers are being treated and overcharged, the way our distribution utilities and sister generators and partners try all sorts of schemes  to outsmart government attempts to create true competition and get away with them, the way our own government officials always succumb to the enticing power of the vested interests and fail to step up for the public interest, the way our approving agencies somehow funnel lucrative RE and ME government subsidies to evidently favored applicants, the way all these end up overcharging us the poor consumers, and the way the prospects for reforms in this country of ours seem bleaker by the day, it is easy to give up and think that our government officials are hopelessly apathetic to really looking after our interest, and that they are all part of this national conspiracy against us the people as electric consumers. Are they soul less or just clueless?

The more things and people change in the government agencies that oversee the power sector, the more things seem to remain the same or worse for the people.

Before we all give up on our race and country,  letus recognize a few knights in shining armors who over the years have done somethings to right the course for the electric consumers. Let us give them due credit and be inspired by their refreshing and hopeful statesmanship.

  1. First on our List is former Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Ikot Petilla.

If CSP or competitive selection process have been in the news, a cornerstone of our power procurement policy,  and a raging battleground between Meralco and the rest of us, it is because Ikot Petilla saw the abuse of the consumers from negotiated power supply contracts and took the bold move to do something about it ….despite risking the ire of the major conglomerates. He passed a government policy to require competitive bidding for power supply contracts that will be passed on to the consumers and thus ushered in the CSP era in the main gridon June 2015 just before he resigned to run for the Senate, leaving us a lasting legacy. (CSP had been required in the missionary areas since 2004)

Up to that point, distribution utilities in the main grid like Meralco have been happily negotiating the power supply contracts that are all passed on to the consumers with whoever they choose and at whatever price and terms they can get away with.

Unfortunately IkotPetilla did not make it to the Senate in the 2016 election, denying us of one of the best Senators for energy that we never had.  Petilla ironically had the dubious distinction of putting in the CSP rules and at the same time had the bad luck of choosing an ERC Chairman who will not exactly be faithful to Petilla’s vision of a truly competitive generation market.  CSP may not still be perfect but at least it is a work in progress.  Without Petillas landmark move we still would not have a chance.  Thank you Sir, we are forever grateful. Hopefully at some point in the future, we will get the CSP done right.

  1. Current Energy Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi (and President Duterte)

a). One person who is fighting hard to insure that the CSP practice is adopted and done right is current DOE Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi. Before President Duterte got elected in 2016 and before Secretary Cusi got appointed, Meralco’s and ERC’s maneuverings to circumvent the CSP policy have already been in motion in April 2016.

After the Supreme Court declared ERC’s postponement of the CSP policy to be illegal and hence the resulting power supply contracts that exploited the extended time need to go back to the drawing board and undertake CSP’s, the challenge of insuring, under immense lobby pressure from friends and politicians, that the CSP process is done right and not manipulated fell on the shoulders of Secretary Cusi. And he has a tough job since he is also battling the CSP maneuverings of his own bureaucracy.

We understand he is working on new CSP guidelines to tighten the rules.

b.) He had done more though. One thing Secretary Cusi saw early in his tenure as Energy Secretary is the need to accelerate power supply capacity building. Key to that is reducing the red tape of permits needed by power plant developers. With his sponsorship, President Duterte signed into law Executive Order 30 that mandated that government agencies must act on applications of approvals of projects of national significance within 30 days. Even the controversial 1,200mw Atimonan One project got a certification. EO30 and the CEPNS mechanisms would help mitigate the biggest stumbling blocks in getting critical power projects finished which are local and government approvals and endorsements.

Already many critical power projects all over the country are moving forward faster to alleviate power supply in their areas. Unless they have problems with complying with the CSP rules.

Secretary Cusi’s EO30 and EPNS vision will benefit power projects in the future as we try to catch up in our capacity building.  Thank you Sir. And thank you President Duterte.

c.) Curbing abuse in missionary subsidies

Another thing that Secretary Al Cusi had noticed that past Secretary’s did not pay attention to is the multi-billion rise in missionary subsidies in the off-grid areas.  These are passed on to the consumers.  When the government owned Napocor applied to increase the generation charge to the poor islands in the off-grid islands by P3 per kwh (Can you imagine socking missionary areas with a P8.50 per kwh generation charge compared to P5.50 in Manila?) Secretary Cusi ordered NPC to stop it and instead to look for ways to save the P1 billion by improving efficiency and eliminating waste in generation costs where NPC’s cost had risen by P3.5 billion only in two years from 2016 to 2018.

On behalf of the electric consumers in the off-grid areas, we thank you sir.

MatuwidnaSingilsaKuryente Consumer Alliance Inc.
matuwid.org
david.mskorg@yahoo.com.ph

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