Meralco urged: Use own funds to pay power generators

By Alvin Elchico, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 19 2014 03:50 PM | Updated as of Feb 19 2014 11:50 PM

MANILA, Philippines – Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla has called on Meralco to shell out from its own funds in order to pay, even partially, its generators in order to ensure electricity supply for the next months until the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) or the Supreme Court decides on the controversial spikes in generation charges for December and January.

"Kung may pera sila, magpaluwal ka na muna. Naniniwala ako that Meralco ‘di magpapabaya at may responsibilidad sila na ang serbisyo ay hindi madi-disrupt," said Petilla.

The Supreme Court has extended the temporary restraining order (TRO) on the December generation charge hike but Meralco has filed with the regulator to pass on to consumers the increase of P5.33 per kilowatt hour for the January generation charge.

According to Petilla, Meralco can perhaps pay partially in the meantime or arrange staggered payments to its suppliers.

But in an interview with Meralco yesterday, its legal office head said the amounts involved run to billions of pesos, when asked if Meralco can advance the payments while their petition is being studied by the Energy Regulatory Commission.

"Baka ‘di kayanin... We're talking of billions of pesos here," said Atty. William Pamintuan.

Despite the extension of the TRO until the summer season, Petilla assured there will be no brownouts though there will be tightness in supply throughout the hot weather cycle.

In some days, Petilla said the Luzon grid will be on yellow alert, meaning there will be thin reserves that if a major power plant bogs down, then Luzon will be plunged into rotational power interruptions.

Interruptible load program

Meanwhile, to further boost supply, the Department of Energy (DOE) will soon launch the interruptible load program.

Under this program, entities with at least 1 megawatt power source can use their own generators instead of getting power from the grid. It can also augment Meralco's supply.

So far, Petilla said 12 entities with a combined power source of 530 megawatts have said yes and these include malls and industrial companies.

The DOE sees around 2,300 megawatts of potential power source under this program in the Meralco franchise area.

These entities will be paid by Meralco once their power resource will be used to boost the utility's supply to ensure no interruption.

Meanwhile, Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares said their group will also oppose the petition to collect from consumers the P5.33 per kilowatt hour January generation charge hike.

But if it is approved by the regulator, they will also seek a TRO from the high court similar to the P4.15 per kilowatt hour increase in generation charge for December 2013.