DOE seeks ERC’s priority action on 4 key measures

By Myrna M. Velasco – April 23, 2018, 10:00 PM
from Manila Bulletin

Following the injunctive relief rendered by the Court of Appeals on the four Commissioners, it shall be ‘business as usual’ for the Energy Regulatory Commission – thus, the Department of Energy (DOE) has been appealing to them to prioritize at least four key measures that have direct impact on the consumers’ electric bills as well as on the quality of service afforded them.

Two electricity tariff-related measures shall be those on the ‘clear accounting’ of bill deposits paid for by customers; and second is updating the regulatory reset on the performance-based regulation (PBR) of power utilities.

Energy Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi explained that rates under the PBR scheme had not been adjusted since the last reset in 2015-2016, so even if there are regulated rates already going down, that is not being enjoyed by consumers at this time.

“That (PBR regulatory reset) is a priority and is also part of further unbundling of electricity rates that we have been pushing for,” the energy chief noted.

He added that with the CA ruling effectively stopping the suspension of the four Commissioners, “it shall be a continuation of work for them,” therefore, Cusi noted they must already efficiently flesh out what are the priority decisions the ERC must focus on.

In other markets like the United States, the Energy Secretary can invoke ‘statutory authority’ upon the industry regulator (in this case the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) so these two key agencies can be aligned when it comes to implementation of policies and rules for the energy sector.

Aside from rate-related regulatory works, Cusi similarly prompted ERC on the voluminous power supply agreements (PSAs) still needing their action and final approvals.

“Why is it that PSAs are important? Because we’re building up capacity and construction of plants will not commence if they (ERC) can’t render approvals first…we don’t like to leave a legacy in the industry in which power supply will be unstable,” Cusi stressed.

The energy chief similarly called on the ERC to get its act on the legally impeded Retail Competition and Open Access (RCOA) policy.

While the power industry’s retail competition is currently smothered by a temporary restraining order (TRO) of the Supreme Court, Cusi said the ERC must at least set a ‘forward direction’ harmonized with what the Department of Energy (DOE) has already framed as ‘cure’ to the questioned provisions of the RCOA rules.

The two government agencies are at odds when it comes to the recommended ‘RCOA fixes’, but on industry’s standpoint, the DOE is cornering better score on this sphere, especially upon the lifting of the TRO in the high court.