Senator worried over Malampaya shutdown
The Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) must try its best to ease the impact on power consumers of the 20-day maintenance shutdown of the Malampaya natural gas facility.
Senator Nancy Binay said it is imperative that the ERC exhaust all means to temper price shocks, saying she supports a staggered payment scheme on electricity rates for power consumers to protect them from impact of having to pay higher rates.
“I commend the initiative and foresight of all stakeholders in the power industry and their willingness to protect the interest of the ordinary Filipino consumer. But more than this, I suggest that we also have customers pay their power bills in tranches to lessen their household expenditures,” said Binay, vice chair of the Senate Committee on Energy.
Binay made the call despite the various procedures and programs already initiated by the Department of Energy (DOE) and other power stakeholders affected by the shutdown which is scheduled to run from January 28 to February 16.
Energy officials are considering tempering the projected 11.20 to 11.50 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) power rate increase in power consumers’ bills. The possible rate increase is expected to reflect in consumers’ bills in March, 2017.
“These procedures have been done before but now, we have to be more proactive to mitigate the power rate increase as soon as we can,” she said.
Binay pointed out the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) has reportedly filed for a staggered payment application to the ERC.
But she said the ERC should also review all active and current power supply agreements (PSAs) and ensure that consumers won’t be burdened with additional costs during collection of the increased generation costs during the maintenance period.
The senator said the ERC should look for customer rebates that can be applied during the period of the rate increase to offset “or, at least, minimize what consumers will spend for their electricity bills.”
She added that “in the event that the staggered payment application will be allowed, I hope that it will spread out over a longer period of time so consumers will pay lower increments per month.”
In preparation for the maintenance shutdown, the ERC and the Department of Energy (DOE) are reportedly studying the possibility of lowering the secondary price cap in the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM) to avert excessive increases that might be brought about by the high demand during the maintenance period.
The contingency measures include supplementing the supply deficiency by ensuring availability of alternative fuel requirements of affected natural-gas power plants that will continue to generate electricity during maintenance period and running of back-up plants such as the 470-MW Malaya Thermal Power Plant.
Energy officials are also preparing the availability of Interruptible Load Program (ILP) participants to augment supply when demand increases, and monitoring and maximizing the operation of all renewable energy facilities during the Malampaya maintenance period.