An ‘unappreciated agency’

The Energy Regulatory Commission is currently mired in controversy. With four of its commissioners suspended for allegations of graft and “neglect of duty,” the ERC board is unable to discharge its critical role of setting fair electricity prices and giving the go-signal on generation companies to pursue the construction of more power plants in the country.

Former President and Pampanga 2nd District Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who signed into law the Electric Power Industry Reform Act during her term, noted during the agency’s 17th-anniversary celebration last week that the ERC had not received its rightful recognition as an agent of change in the power sector despite its achievements.

Mrs. Arroyo enumerated the progressive developments in the energy sector, including the establishment of the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market starting in Luzon, then in the Visayas and in Mindanao later this year. The creation of the WESM, the country’s trading floor for electricity, led to the interconnection of the Luzon and Visayas grids to the Mindanao grid, the 91-percent electrification of households, the implementation of prepaid electricity and net metering for consumers with solar panels.

The ERC, as mandated by the Epira, should promote market forces to determine the cost of electricity in a competitive regime and advance the interest of consumers by giving them their choice of electricity supplier.

The Epira law is not perfect, says Arroyo, but “it is better to have an imperfect symphony that is being performed than a perfect symphony that is never played.”

The suspension of the four commissioners and the ERC board’s inability to gather a quorum to rule on pending petitions on power matters have already alarmed economists and generating companies. The Philippine economy, for one, will need more power plants to address the rising electricity demand from factories and households as well.

Postponing the construction of power plants will be disastrous to the economy. Malacañang should be reminded that keeping the vacuum longer in the ERC board would derail the country’s growth momentum.

Topics: Energy Regulatory Commission , Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo , electricity price , Electric Power Industry Reform Act
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