Group pushes power consumers’ participation in CSP discussions

By Lenie Lectura – June 13, 2019
from Business Mirror

Workers connect electricity cables to a transmission pole. (Bloomberg)

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Consumer group Murang Kuryente is urging the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) to include electricity consumers in the discussions on the power supply agreements (PSAs) that are covered by a Supreme Court order to undergo Competitive Selection Process (CSP).

“The ERC has talked to generation companies, they have talked to distribution utilities, but they have yet to talk to the people who would pay the price for the result of their talks—the consumers,” said Murang Kuryente Spokesman Gerry Arances.

Murang Kuryente, Power for People Coalition, Philippine Movement for Climate Justice and Sanlakas held a protest rally on Monday morning in front of the ERC office in Pasig City.

They also submitted a letter to ERC Chairman Agnes Devanadera requesting for an audience to present the thoughts of consumers concerning the selection process for PSAs.

Murang Kuryente, composed of leading energy consumer advocates, has been at the forefront of the campaign to lower electricity prices since its establishment the previous year. When sought for comment, ERC Spokesman Atty. Rexie Digal said in a text message that consumer groups attended previous public hearings on CSP.

“Engagement with stakeholders, may it be distribution utilities, generation companies, consumers on the CSP, was done through public consultations [pubcons]. Per our record, (MSK) Matuwid na Singil sa Kuryente attended the CSP pubcons. Comments on the second and third draft we’re, likewise, received from MSK. In fact, some of their suggestions were, made part of the current CSP draft,” said Digal.

When asked if Murang Kuryente attended previous discussions or public hearings, Digal said, “Parang wala naman (There was none as far as I could recall) before. Our invitations are posted in our web site. It’s not directed to anyone specific.”

Murang Kuryente, meanwhile, welcomed the memorandum of agreement (MOA) between the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Philippine Competition Commission (PCC).

The MOA is meant to coordinate their actions on promoting market competition and investigating collusions in the power sector.

“We have been asking the government to investigate the cartel-like behavior of power companies for so long. This agreement between the PCC and the DOE is a welcome development and a step forward to putting consumers first in our electricity policy, as it should be,” said Arances.

Arances also responded to San Miguel Corp. (SMC) President Ramon Ang’s assertion that renewable energy (RE) is neither economical nor affordable at this point.

“Renewable energy now accounts for a third of the global power generating capacity, according to a report by the International Renewable Energy Agency. In fact, coal is on the downturn everywhere else except in Southeast Asia.

“Study after study, and even our own experience with power supply agreements, have shown that coal is more expensive than RE sources. You don’t have to buy the heat of the sun or movement of the wind, you just need to collect them,” he said.

Arances pointed out that all of the power plants that failed in the Philippines earlier this year and caused the yellow and red alerts are all powered by coal, demonstrating the unreliability of the highly pollutive fuel.

“We welcome Mr. Ang’s statement, saying that SMC is looking to completely transition to renewables, but no, more coal will not help with that transition. There may be new technology, which will emit less, but it just means fewer people will be killed by the diseases coal produces.

Every death, every illness caused by the use of coal is one too many, especially when RE is there and able to produce electricity at a lower cost, higher reliability, and with less adverse effects on health and the environment,” said Arances.

The power business of SMC is keen on putting up more power plants that could generate 1,200 megawatts of additional capacity to help address a foreseen power shortage in the Luzon grid, Ang had said.

He added that it is likely that a power shortage looms from 2020 until 2022, mainly because of lack of new power supply, and regulatory delays in the approval of power plant construction, among others.“To ensure that progress is sustained with the continuing economic growth and aggressive infrastructure development , we have to build new power plants. But these can’t be just any power plant. New facilities should be able to address all the critical issues—affordability, reliability and, of course, environmental concerns.

That’s why we are studying hydro, tidal and wind power technologies, and have identified certain locations for these projects. But along with these efforts, we will also continue to build new clean coal technology power plants,” said Ang.

He also assured that all new power facilities that will be built will utilize the latest, cleanest and safest coal combustion technology. These are no longer the coal plants of old that burn so much fuel and emit so much pollution.

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