Devanadera: ERC working double time on pending cases
The Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) is working quickly on pending cases, including ones that involve the proposed construction of new power plants, in an effort to ensure that available power generation capacity is not overrun by increasing electricity demand.
This was according to ERC Chair Agnes Devanadera who, in an interview yesterday, told the Inquirer that the independent agency was able to issue 100 decisions from October 2018 to March 2019.
“We double the time we spent on work, we study the cases diligently and issue decision carefully,” Devanadera said. “That’s why we don’t give interviews, we want to spend time on the cases. There are 50 cases for each of our lawyers.”
She also said the forced outage of some power plants had no relation to whether or not the agency had acted on pending cases.
“If we wanted a new power plant today, (the ERC approval should have been granted) four years ago,” the lawyer said. “We’re not saying this (backlog of unresolved cases) is the fault of others, but we are continuously acting on pending cases that we inherited.”
She added that the 100 decisions that the ERC had issued over the past six months included ones that give the green light for new power plant projects.
“We had been hampered by orders suspending my colleagues, but now we are working (in high gear),” Devanadera said.
She was referring to orders from the Office of the Ombudsman suspending ERC commissioners—which deprived the ERC of a quorum and, thus, ability to make decisions—on two occasions.
In December 2017, when Devanadera was newly appointed as ERC chair, she said the ERC’s “paralysis” affected P1.6 trillion worth of business with pending applications. These include 162 cases related to applications for approval of power supply agreements (PSAs) between distributors and power producers.
She said the approval of PSAs—which allows the construction of new power plants—was not the sole purview of the ERC. This is also determined by other agencies based on their projections of demand and based on economic development plans, she said.
As for PSA-related cases that are now pending in the Supreme Court — including alleged “midnight deals” and “sweetheart deals” between Manila Electric Co. and its suppliers — Devanadera said the ERC could not act until the court did.
Also yesterday, National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP) again declared a red alert for the Luzon grid. This was scheduled for three hours from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., but NGCP lifted the notice by 3:10 p.m. when available capacity was 10,750 megawatts and peak demand was at 10,204 MW.
Monday’s two-hour red alert status for Luzon was a big improvement from last Friday’s 12-hour red alert that sent parts of Metro Manila and Bulacan under rotating brownouts — thanks in part to companies that participated in Meralco’s interruptible load program or ILP.
Such companies voluntarily turn to their own stand-by power generators instead of the distribution utility at particular hours of the day when supply in the grid is not enough.
In a statement, the Philippine Independent Power Producers Association (Pippa), which accounts for 13,550 MW of installed capacity, asked for the public’s patience and trust that technical problems of plants under forced outage would be fixed in the soonest possible time.
The supply situation is expected to ease by Wednesday when most of plants that underwent unplanned outage would likely be back online. —RONNEL W. DOMINGO
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.