Power sector reforms stagnated—Gatchalian

By Alena Mae S. Flores – June 23, 2019 at 07:30 pm
from manilastandard.net

The Philippines’ power sector stagnated 18 years after the passage of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001, which instituted reforms in the power sector, according to Senator Sherwin Gatchalian.

“We stagnated. We did not move forward. We did not move backward. I say we stagnated because WESM (Wholesale Electricity Spot Market) prices are healthy and WESM prices are low,” Gatchalian, the chairman of the Senate energy committee, said.

WESM, a product of EPIRA, is the country’s trading floor for electricity.

“But even if WESM prices are low, if you ask ordinary Filipino consumer, he does not feel it, meaning there is still something lacking. One of the biggest [reforms] that is still needed is the implementation of retail access―retail competition and open access,” Gatchalian said.

Retail competition and open access mandates electricity users with monthly consumption of one megawatt to choose their own suppliers. The threshold goes down to 750-kilowatt users to 500-kw users until it reaches the household level.

A Supreme Court ruling stopped the full implementation of RCOA.

“One of the remedies we are thinking is to legislate some of the concepts in EPIRA. RCOA is one of them…The concept of RCOA is in EPIRA. We can legislate that to resolve many things especially the local RES [retail electricity supplier] which is the biggest issue. We can now legislate if we will allow local RES or we will not allow local RES,” Gatchalian said.

He said the incoming 18th Congress “will review where we are in the implementation of the EPIRA” once it resumes session on July 22.

“That will be done through JCPC [Joint Congressional Power Commission], so hopefully we get a counterpart in the lower House that will be consumer-oriented,” Gatchalian said.

He said the Senate energy committee would also follow up on the deliverables of the Energy Regulatory Commission and the Department of Energy in terms of putting accountability of the generators.

Gatchalian said he wanted to start the public hearings next month to have enough time to prepare before the dry months next year where supply was expected to become tight again.

He said the average age of power generating firms in the country was 30 years.
“We may need to attract newer generating technology. And also the old generators are more polluted. Aside from reliability, we also have to look at the aspect of sustainability so we will start off with that,” he said.