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ERC probes unplanned power outages

By CHARISSA M. LUCI

Manila, Philippines – “Suprised” by Manila Electric Company’s (Meralco) imposition of a P4.15 per kilowatt hour hike, the Department of Energy has directed a parallel probe on the supposed “collusion” among the independent power plants and suppliers.

During yesterday’s House committee on energy hearing, Undersecretary Raul Aguilos disclosed that Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla directed an investigation, saying that they only anticipated P1.58 per kilowatt hour hike and not P4.16 per kilowatt hour adjustment which was imposed by Meralco and was approved by Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC).

He said Petilla wants to identify the “culprits” behind the “unplanned or unprogrammed power outages,” which was factored in the the reduction of supply of power and required Meralco to get power supply to Wholesale Electricity Spot Market or WESM, which he referred as “the vessel which was very much higher.”

He identified that unplanned outages occurred to several plants: like the Sta. Rita, San Lorenzo, Pagbilao, Masinloc, Gen Power, Calaca and Ilijan.

The probe is jointly conducted by the DOE, ERC and the Philippine Electricty Market Corp. (PEMC).

“These were actually the major reasons, factors, why such a spike happened, because these were not anticipated, that’s why the Secretary would want this investigated to identify the culprits and make penalize them if ever that’s why we also have to seek the assistance from PENC and ERC because this is
also part of their mandate so this is an ongoing process which we would like to be finished within the timetable, within the reasonable period of time,” Aguilos told the energy panel, chaired by Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali.

“…Yung nagsabay-sabay sila ng power outage mukhang hindi kapani-paniwala,” he pointed out.

Aguilos said the result of the investigation will come out in two weeks time.

Meralco President Oscar Reyes told lawmakers that the outages of power plants affected them , since they provide at least 40 percent of their power supply. Meralco attributed its P4.16 per kilowatt hour hike to the one-month shutdown of the Malampaya natural gas field from November 11 to December 10.

During the hearing, lawmakers lambasted the ERC for failing to protect and promote the interest of the public after it nodded to Meralco’s rate increase.

“Is the increase for public interest? This will result in a domino effect on fares and prices of goods,” Cavite Representative Elpidio Barzaga Jr. said.

Bayan Muna party-list Representative Carlos Zarate agreed with Barzaga as he asked the ERC if it could defer the power rate increase. He also asked the Umali panel to look into unplanned outages.

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