Businessmen push EPIRA changes

By Iris C. Gonzales, The Philippine Star

Posted at Feb 24 2014 12:26 PM | Updated as of Feb 24 2014 08:26 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Businessmen urged the Aquino administration to support proposed amendments to the Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001 such as improving the role of the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC).

The Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI), an umbrella organization of business groups, submitted to the DOE a list of recommendations to amend the EPIRA, the power reform law.

Topping PCCI’s list of recommendations is to strengthen the market power of the electric cooperatives.

“Evaluate the opportunities to harness the combined market powers of the private utilities and review, revamp or suspend the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM),” PCCI said.

The WESM is the country’s trading floor for electricity.

For renewable energy, PCCI urged the Department of Energy (DOE) to evaluate the merit of mandating solar power for the heating and lighting of commercial and public buildings and establishments in order to release 15 percent of current capacity to the market.

PCCI also urged the Energy department to “develop an overall-plan of where power plants should be, the size and type to be built and come up with a committed joint public-private leadership and will to communicate the need to the public why this should be implemented with everyone’s full support.

The business group also urged the Energy department to review and remove items in the electricity bill that add to escalating cost.

The DOE is collating recommendations to amend the EPIRA, with the aim of submitting to Congress the proposed amendments to the law within the quarter.

Various groups have submitted proposals to amend the EPIRA, alleging that the law failed to stop skyrocketing electricity rates.

The National Association of Electricity Consumers for Reforms, for one, is pushing for the abolition of the WESM for failure to lower power costs.

The World Bank, meanwhile, pushed for the strengthening of the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC).

“ERC in general is probably a bit too legalistic and process oriented and not driven enough (nor capable enough) by core economic aspects,” World Bank senior energy specialist Alan Townsend said in his comments to the department.

The Philippine Independent Power Producers (PIPPA), the organization of power generators, meanwhile, proposed changes in the WESM rules and manuals and modification of the must offer rules.