‘Stand by consumers,’ advocacy group urges ERC

‘Stand by consumers,’ advocacy group urges ERC

Consumer rights and energy advocacy group Power for People Coalition (P4P) on Thursday expressed ‘grave concern’ over petitions filed by the Philippine Independent Power Producers Association’s (PIPPA) before the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC), which “in essence demand the removal of penalties their member companies may incur for power plant outages, and of price caps meant to cushion consumers from the burden of fluctuating power prices.”

Last year, PIPPA made propositions to the ERC to relax the reliability benchmark rule, which sets a limit on allowable outages for power plants, ensuring that the available electricity to the public is sufficient to meet demand. PIPPA also asked for an elimination of current price caps on spot markets, which serve to protect consumers from excessive cost of electricity during times of low power supply and high demand.

The ERC is rolling out online public consultations on the petitions in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.

In a letter addressed to the ERC, P4P said, “Affordable and reliable electricity is a basic right of power consumers. PIPPA’s petitions scorn this by refusing accountability should they fail to provide service they owe, and by ensuring maximum profits at the expense of consumers. These petitions are irreconcilable to public interest, especially as the country enters the El Niño season and availability of power becomes all the more crucial.”

The letter, signed by P4P groups including Sanlakas, Eco-Convergence & CBCP National Laudato Si’ Program, Caritas Philippines, Freedom from Debt Coalition, and others, was sent ahead the first public consultation on January 26.

“We jointly write this letter to the Commission urging you to stand by consumers at this time. We recall the still unresolved investigation from 2021 on the potential of a ‘pricing play’ in the spot market, and the petitions at hand are concerning, to say the least. We also raise concern over the accessibility and transparency of upcoming public consultations on the subject of the petitions, which will be conducted only via online meeting rooms and require registration beforehand for stakeholders to be admitted.”

The group urged the ERC to exhaust all means to ensure the accurate cascading of matters at hand and broadest possible participation of the public in the consultations - including through making the consultation publicly available in digital platforms, removing the stringent process of registration, publishing presentations and materials to be used in the consultations well before consultation dates, ensuring that materials used can cater to information needs of stakeholders, and hosting in-person consultations, which would be more accessible to stakeholders with challenges in accessing digital platforms. (PR)

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