The Court of Appeals (CA) has issued a 60-day temporary restraining order (TRO) on the suspension of the four Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) commissioners.
The TRO was issued to the ERC “to avoid serious and irreparable disruption in the operation of the ERC and to prevent adverse repercussions on the power industry as a whole.”
With this, ERC will begin promulgating decisions on 61 pending cases in their office.
“With the TRO issued by the Court of Appeals, the ERC can now resume with the regular performance of our duties and functions and act on petitions with urgency. I’m glad that the CA gave weight on the impact of the vacuum of leadership caused by the Ombudsman’s suspension of the ERC commissioners and considered the welfare of the electric power industry stakeholders, most especially the consuming public who will eventually suffer the consequences of the ERC’s inability to perform its mandate,” ERC chairperson and CEO Agnes Devanadera said.
Among the 61 cases now to be promulgated by the ERC is on the imposition of the new system loss cap.
“The commission has already approved rules on system loss cap. This was not done for just a week. There was an engagement of consultants to study this as well as the conduct of public consultations,” Devanadera said.
System loss is the unbilled power caused by the pilferage and physical loss of energy when electricity travels through distribution lines. This is passed on to consumers under the Anti-Electricity and Electric Transmission Lines/Materials Pilferage Act of 1994
ERC Commissioner Josefina Asirit said that power distributors are given a four-year transition period to adjust to the lowered system loss cap.
Under the revised system loss cap, the new cap on private distribution utilities (DUs) will be reduced to 6.5 percent and eventually to 5.5 percent while electric cooperatives (ERCs) will be lowered to 12 percent then to 8.25 percent at the end of the transition period.
“We gave them a transition period to because they won’t be able to reach the cap immediately. This will allow them to improve on their assets,” Asirit said.
Meanwhile, the ERC will also decide on the pending or expiring certificates of compliance (COCs) of power generators to be able to trade on the wholesale electricity spot market (WESM)
“The first in the agenda is renewal of these expired COCs,” Devanadera said. “Definitely, we will act on them so that the can continue to trade in the spot market without question.”
For the controversial Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) petitions, these will not be approved immediately as the pending cases would still need to go through the process first.
“There are processes here. Not because you have filed an application, tomorrow we approve. There are processes and we have to make sure the processes are in place and the study is done,” the ERC chief said.
Meanwhile, consumer group Power for People (P4P) is disappointed over the TRO issued by the CA on the ERC commissioners.
“After the ERC Commissioners were found to have colluded with Meralco so that their ‘sweetheart deals’ with their sister coal generation companies will push through, the CA cited ‘grave and irreparable injury’ for the part of the four commissioners suspended as a reason to issue a TRO in their favor,” said Sanlakas Secretary-General Atty. Aaron Pedrosa, convenor of the P4P Coalition.
“They spoke nothing of the grave and irreparable injury to be suffered by Meralco’s 19 million customers, and the communities who will be primarily affected ones the coal-fired power plants pertained to in the agreements are greenlit,” he said.