NREB boss open to ERC post

by Lenie Lectura, 18 July 2015
from BusinessMirror

THE top official of the National Renewable Energy Board (NREB) will accept the position of Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) chairman if it is offered to him.

“If offered to me, how can I refuse the President?” NREB Chairman Pedro Maniego said last week when sought for comment.

NREB is the body tasked by the Renewable Energy Act of 2008 to recommend policies, rules and standards to govern the implementation of the law, which granted fiscal and nonfiscal incentives to renewable- energy projects.

Maniego is among the three candidates that were recommended to President Aquino as a possible replacement of ERC Chairman Zenaida Ducut, who retired from office on July 10.

Maniego clarified that he is not presenting himself to the President to be chosen. “I have no backers. I am not offering myself. It’s better to just stay quiet about this. After all, it’s the prerogative of the President,” he said.

The other two candidates are Joseph Ferdinand Dechavez, former senior adviser to National Grid Corp. of the Philippines President Henry Sy Jr. and Justice Undersecretary Jose Vicente Salazar.

Maniego, Dechavez and Salazar are all lawyers, thus making them qualified for the post. The ERC chairman must be a lawyer by profession.

Among the three, a source said Salazar is a frontrunner, while another source said a thorough and diligent review is already being conducted on the justice department official.

Malacañang, however, has yet to announce Ducut’s replacement.

Just months back, word got out that ERC Commissioner Josefina Patricia Magpale-Asirit, who served as undersecretary of energy from 2010 to 2012, is going to be the next ERC chairman.

Asirit’s family ties with Cabinet Secretary Jose Almendras, her uncle, and with Cebu Vice Gov. Agnes Magpale, her mother, make her a “very strong candidate,” industry stakeholders pointed out.

However, her name as ERC’s next possible chairman “just fizzled out,” said another source.

Former Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho L. Petilla said late last month that albeit “very qualified” Asirit is hounded with “perception problems” because of her strong ties with Almendras.

“Knowing her, I don’t think she will be biased, but the problem is she will always be linked to her uncle,” Petilla added.

Petilla did not say if he had made recommendations to the President, but commented that the next ERC chairman should be “a man or a woman with a solid integrity.”

“This is a very contentious position. Malacañang will have to make sure that whoever is appointed will stabilize the industry. It’s a must that he or she must have the technical know-how because we cant afford for the next ERC chairman to study while things are not moving inside. “So the next ERC chairman must have integrity and must posses the technical know-how,” Petilla said.

Petilla stepped down early this month, two months after he submitted his resignation letter. Energy Undersecretary Zenaide Monsada took over as DOE officer in charge (OIC) pending Petilla’s replacement.

ERC Commissioner Alfredo Non, meanwhile, is ERC’s OIC.

These are two key positions in the power sector. Industry stakeholders are on a wait-and-see attitude as to who gets to sit as the next ERC chairman, because whoever will be appointed will lead the agency in the next seven years regardless of who the next President will be.

While the DOE is mostly responsible on crafting policies, it is the ERC that sets out the guidelines and also rules on landmark cases.

During Ducut’s seven-year term, the ERC was able to create a new regulatory framework  for   the   setting  of   the   electric  cooperatives’ (ECs) wheeling rates.

The  system -loss caps  were  also lowered from  14 percent for ECs to  13 percent, and  9.5 percent for  private utilities to  8.5 percent. Company use was also excluded in the computation of the system loss.

Likewise, new capital expenditure (capex) rules to aid the utilities in preparing their capex proposals were promulgated. Planning manuals, such as the Electric Cooperative Distribution Utilities Planning Manual and Investor-Owned Electric Distribution Utilities Planning Manuals were released, the ERC said.

It was also during Ducut’s term that   Retail Competition and Open Access (RCOA) was declared, with its initial implementation commencing on June 26, 2013.

Prior  to  this,  the  ERC laid  down  the foundation  of   RCOA  by   promulgating  several   rules governing  the   retail  market.  Under   her   watch,  the   ERC  was   also successful in setting up the  regulatory framework for the implementation  of   the   incentive  mechanisms  under   the   Renewable Energy   Act  of  2008,  such  as  the  Feed-in   Tariff   System and  the  Net Metering program.

The commission also  approved last  year  for  the  entire 2015  a lower  transmission charge from   P0.6416 per kWh to P0.6161 per kWh.

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