Se­na­tor wor­ried over Malam­paya shut­down

Manila Bulletin - - News - By HAN­NAH L. TORREGOZA

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.

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