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Manila Standard

THERE IS power and integrity in the timely suggestion by Senator Risa Hontiveros to hold the Department of Energy and energy firms to be accountable for perceived failures to prepare for the effects of El Niño on the operations of power plants.

The 58-year-old deputy minority leader said the impending hike in generation charges from this month onward must be disallowed as the DOE and power firms must not pass on the cost of their failures to consumers.

She was articulate, if precise, in her statement Monday the DOE and power companies failed to prepare for the effects of El Niño on the operations of power plants, which led to forced outages of over 30 plants prompting the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines to raise red and yellow alerts over the Luzon and Visayas grids.

Last April, the DOE said the Philippines had adequate power supply as the country had yet to breach its peak demand despite the onset of summer and the ongoing El Niño phenomenon.

Luzon at that point still had 2,000 megawatts to spare, while Visayas and Mindanao collectively still 200-megawatts short of their estimated peak demand, Energy Assistant Secretary Mario Marasigan told the government-run television PTV.

Hontiveros observed, and we agree, the failure to prepare for the effects of El Niño on the operations of power plants had caused the cost of electricity to shoot up in the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market, reportedly planned to be passed on by Meralco to consumers at a rate of at least P0.50/kWh in June if staggered or P0.80 to P0.90/kWh in one payment.

We underline Hontiveros’ argument that making consumers pay for the failures of the energy sector sets a bad precedent and therefore, in her words, “The upcoming power rate hike must be disallowed.”

She painted a graphic image, which overcharged consumers can easily relate to, with the brush masterstroke of jeepney drivers returning the passengers’ fare once their jeepneys break down.

That, as against the DOE and power companies planning to raise electricity rates instead of being accountable to the people.

We endorse her beef the ERC should be fair in its “regulatory framework” by not allowing consumers to shoulder whatever costs may be incurred by the DOE and power companies due to their blunders.

We recall there was this Senate investigation into the power crisis which unearthed several lapses on the part of the energy sector, including the lack of a contingency plan on the part of DOE, abandoning the use of the Loss of Load Probability method to plan the country’s power supply since the enactment of Epira, the ERC lacking the ability to check the capacity of power plants, and the weak penalties imposed on power players that do not fulfill their obligations.

It appears there’s something wrong somewhere.

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