Power regulators urged to hasten approvals to keep rates affordable

Danessa Rivera - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — Power regulators are urged to streamline procedures and fasttrack approvals to maintain affordable power rates.

CitizenWatch Philippines said streamlining the regulatory procedures on the part of government should work hand in hand with the fast-tracking of the Energy Regulatory Commission’s approval of pending power plant applications.

The consumer rights advocate group said this should help sustain lower electricity rates, especially when Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) announced a reduction in its rates this month.

“It is laudable that despite the increasing trend of commodities, the price of electricity has gone down, but to ensure that the concerns of the end-users to affordable and reliable power are fully addressed, CitizenWatch Philippines calls for the chain method of cutting down the costs of electricity,” CitizenWatch Philippines convenor Hannah Viola said.

“The challenge for the power industry is to not break this chain. Cooperation among government and private sectors is key to solving this issue,” she said.

For this month, Meralco announced a reduction in electricity rates amounting to P0.5436 per kilowatt hour (kwh). This reduced rate translates to a decrease of P109 in the monthly bill of a typical household consuming 200 kwh.

The power distributor said the lower adjustment is due to the P0.4212 per kwh decrease in generation charge, which was largely pulled down by lower wholesale electricity spot market (WESM) prices.

The reduction in rates came at a time when rates traditionally skyrocket because of high power demand during the hot season.

Independent think tank Stratbase ADR Institute president Dindo Manhit said the drop in electricity rates should be sustained to support the government’s development plans which would need more power plants to ensure stable power supply for increasing demand.

A positive step towards keeping rates affordable is the recent issuance of the implementing rules and regulations of Executive Order 30, which aims to streamline the regulatory procedures affecting energy projects of national significance.

For the industry players, unwarranted increase should always be tempered and the entry of new plants should be coupled with the maintenance and repair of the old ones.

“While there is sense of solace in the decrease of electricity prices this month, the campaign for the lowering of power costs remains to be a long-term goal which requires continuance and consistency in action,” Viola said.

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