ERC delays to push power rates up
by Xave Gregorio
Consumers may expect power rates to go up by up to P1 per kilowatt hour by 2026 if delays in the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) continue.
The Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corporation (Psalm) revealed during a Senate hearing Monday (July 30) that delays caused by the ERC have left P34.78 billion more to be shouldered by consumers, equal to around 19 centavos per kilowatt hour.
This would gradually be reflected in consumers’ power bills until 2026, when the full 19 centavos would have been added in the universal charge.
This is on top of the existing debt incurred by the defunct National Power Corporation (Napocor) still being paid by consumers, which according to Psalm would amount to around 86 centavos per kilowatt hour.
ERC Chief Energy Regulation Officer Engr. Alvin Jones Ortega explained that the delays are caused by the continued hearings on pending Psalm petitions on the Napocor’s stranded debts and stranded contract costs which form part of the universal charge imposed on power consumers.
Ortega added that one out of three pending petitions before the ERC has been submitted for resolution.
Meanwhile, the two other Psalm petitions amounting to P27 billion and P34 billion are still “undergoing due process.”
However, Psalm President and Chief Executive Officer Lourdes Alzona refuted this, saying there is still one petition worth P21 billion which they have been awaiting resolution.
“We’ve already completed all the hearings and all the due process requirements, but we have not gotten yet the decision of the ERC on that,” Alzona said.
Senator Sherwin “Win” Gatchalian took to task the ERC, which has been facing a series of controversies involving its commissioners, including a second suspension order from the Ombudsman for allowing Manila Electric Co. to use consumers’ electric bill deposits to finance its operations.
“In addition to those controversies, papatungan niyo pa si Juan dela Cruz ng P34 billion because of your delay. For me this is really unacceptable,” Gatchalian told the ERC.
Ortega said the ERC is “trying to fasttrack” the hearing of the petitions, which has languished for years.
To lower power rates despite ERC’s delays, the use of the remaining P204 billion Malampaya fund is being sought, which is seen to result in annual savings of P2,033.76 for an average household consuming 200 kWh per month.
“These savings are enough for an underprivileged household to buy two additional sacks of rice every year,” Gatchalian said.
Senate Bill No. 924 authored by Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto seeks to allocate the net national government share from the Malampaya Natural Gas Project for the payment of Napocor’s debts.