Energy agencies to issue new order after SC froze open access

by Alena Mae S. Flores – February 23, 2017 at 10:05 pm

from Manila Standard Today

THE Energy Department, the Energy Regulatory Commission and Philippine Electricity Market Corp. will come out with a unified policy to guide power players after the Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order against open access and retail competition.

Energy Undersecretary Felix William Fuentebella told reporters the agencies would come out with a “unifi ed advisory” Friday to allay concerns of the retail electricity suppliers and the contestable customers, or those with an average monthly demand of one megawatt and above. “We will comply with the Supreme Court mandate…We will talk with ERC and PEMC for a unified policy for players to be guided,” he said. The Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order against the implementation of the retail competition and open access―a key provision of Republic Act 9136 or the Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001 on Feb. 21. The case stemmed from the petition of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, San Beda College Alabang Inc., Ateneo de Manila University and Riverbank Development Corp. who claimed that they would suffer grave and irreparable injury once they were disconnected from the distribution utility or made to pay a supplier of last resort a 10 percent premium between the higher contract cost and the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market.

Fuentebella said 20 percent or 221 constable customers had not yet chosen their own suppliers prior to the Feb. 26 deadline set by ERC and the department. “Status quo. Everything is on freeze for now because of the TRO,” he said.

Fuentebella said the unified advisory would address the concerns over the impact of the TRO on existing contracts and provide a “balanced playing fi eld” to those who had signed and had not signed up. Fuentebella said the department would also look at “all legal remedies” regarding the case. Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi said the agency’s mandate was to implement the law and consumers should have the freedom of choice on their preferred power provider.

“The provisions in the Epira mandates the DOE to ensure the security, reliability and availability of transparent and reasonably-priced electricity in the country,” Cusi said.

He said the Epira called for the implementation of open access, which allows consumers to directly contract power supply from licensed retail electricity suppliers. “The spirit of the RCOA is giving the consumers the freedom of choice which would result in higher productivity for them. And the power of choice can only be maximized when there is a level playing field for all suppliers,” Cusi said.

“It is hoped that whatever the decision by the Supreme Court, it will redound to the ultimate benefit of the consumers which is really the intent and the spirit of RCOA,” Cusi said.

The ERC and the Energy Department agreed late last year to implement the mandatory retail competition and open access to power users with a demand of one megawatt monthly by Feb. 26. Retail competition and open access, as envisioned by the Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001, is seen to bring down power costs as it will give customers the power to choose their suppliers.