By Myrna M. Velasco – February 18, 2018, 10:01 PM
from Manila Bulletin
Universal charges (UC) collection, which is slapped on consumers’ electricity bills, of state-run Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corporation (PSALM) has reached a whopping P134.846 billion as of end-December last year.
Based on PSALM’s data, bulk of the charges collected from Filipino electricity ratepayers had been on universal charge for missionary electrification (UCME) at P73.837 billion, followed by UC for stranded contract costs (UC-SCC) at P60.776 billion.
The UCME takes the form of subsidy charges being paid by all Filipino consumers for electricity services rendered in off-grid areas; while UC for stranded contract costs represent component of power prices unrecoverable from the market.
Perceptibly, the universal charge for stranded contract costs have been swelling over the years because of the “flawed” privatization scheme that PSALM had done for the power supply contracts of independent power producers (IPPs) – almost giving them out on “tubong lugaw” (small capital for huge return) type of divestment to private sector takers. In the end, it’s still the Filipino consumers who have been suffering on shouldering the cost gaps.
For UC on environmental charge, total amount billed as of December 2017 hovered at P2.022 billion; while for UC-stranded debts that had just been enforced last year, collections summed up to P526 million.
For UCs slapped on renewable energy developer cash incentive reached a level of P450 million as of end last year.
Of the total collections, PSALM noted that it already disbursed P134.134 billion, leaving just a very meager balance then of P722 million in the UC fund.
The major disbursements, according to the state-run firm included P67.883 billion of UCME and P1.491- billion environmental charge fund to National Power Corporation. This had been in accordance with the rules set forth by the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) and in keeping with the provisions of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act.
On UC for stranded contract costs, PSALM reported that P53.033 billion had been “transferred from the UC-SCC special trust fund account to PSALM’s UC-SCC special fund account,” which is in keeping also with the approved guidelines of disbursement and utilization laid down by its board.
Additionally, the state-owned company logged payments on fuel cost recovery for electric cooperatives, primarily that of the Oriental Mindoro Electric Cooperative.
For incentives to RE projects in off-grid or missionary areas, PSALM booked payments amounting to P203 million within the specified UC disbursements review period.
Project-beneficiaries include those of the 900-kilowatt Cantingas mini-hydropower plant in Romblon; the 1.5-megawatt Hitoma and 2.1MW Solong hydroelectric power facilities of Sunwest Water and Electric Company (SUWECO) in Catanduanes; as well as the 2.1MW Linao Cawayan mini-hydro project in Oriental Mindoro.
The universal charges are separate line items being passed on in the monthly electric bills of Filipino consumers. These charges are subject to ERC approval before they can be reflected in the bills.