SC asked to lift order vs power competition

by Alena Mae S. Flores

From Manila Standard, 23 August 2017

The Energy Regulatory Commission said Thursday it filed an appeal with the Supreme Court to lift the temporary retraining order on retail competition and open access.

ERC officer-in-charge and commissioner Alfredo Non told reporters at the sidelines of a Senate budget hearing that the regulator was seeking guidance from the high tribunal.

“They’re the ones who issued the TRO.  It’s impacting the industry and our hands are tied. We have to seek guidance from them on how to move forward,” Non said.

The Supreme Court issued a TRO on Feb. 21 enjoining the Energy Department, the Energy Regulatory Commission and its agents from implementing the RCOA rules and regulations that mandated the mandatory migration of contestable customers.

ERC, which filed the motion for reconsideration a few weeks ago, asked the court to reduce the threshold of RCOA from 1 megawatt to 750 kilowatts for average users and allow the regulator to issue retail electricity suppliers licenses.

ERC officials said power users with one megawatt of average monthly demand could still voluntarily secure their own suppliers under RCOA, but users with 750-kW demand were not yet allowed by the court.

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian earlier pushed for a legal opinion from the Joint Congressional Power Commission.

“One of the things I am pushing for in JCPC, being the oversight of Epira [Electric Power Industry Reform Act], is to come out with a legal opinion on RCOA. We are now in a very bad position, from a consumer standpoint.  We are now in a negative position because we promised to privatize the entire power sector where some huge companies won, thinking that we will give power to choose to the consumer,” Gatchalian said.

Gatchalian, who heads the Senate committee on energy, said Epira should give consumers the power to choose their own suppliers, but this did not happen because of the high court’s decision.

“We need to pursue RCOA in order to fulfill the real mandate of further lowering down electricity costs and giving the power to choose, democratization to our consumers,” he said.

“It will give a lot of weight to the arguments for RCOA,” Gatchalian said.

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