DOE pushes measure to hasten process of building power plants

By Iris C. Gonzales, The Philippine Star

Posted at Jun 20 2014 07:54 AM | Updated as of Jun 20 2014 03:54 PM

MANILA - The Department of Energy (DOE) is pushing for a measure that would hasten the process of building power plants, Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla said.

He said the measure may be an amendment to Republic Act 9136 or the Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001 (EPIRA) or an amendment to Republic Act 8975, which prohibits lower courts from issuing temporary restraining orders (TRO) on government infrastructure projects.

Petilla said he wants this provision to apply to power projects to improve and hasten the process of building power plants.

“We want a bill that would hasten the process of permitting (for power plants) and there will be no TRO,” he said.

“We have a law right now that says that any government project of national interest cannot be TRO’d except by the Supreme Court. The problem is we cannot invoke that for power plants because it’s only for government projects,” Petilla said.

He said the department is pushing for the measure and is already looking for a bill sponsor.

Power investors have been complaining of the tedious process in building power plants, a process that could sometimes take four years because it involves at least 160 signatures.

“We have submitted that to Congress. We are now looking for a sponsor,” Petilla said.

The DOE also submitted proposed amendments to EPIRA it had gathered from various sectors.

“We already got all the information which we turned over to Congress. It’s really up to them to push the (amendments) or not,” Petilla said.

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 Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM) for failure to lower power costs.

“Seven years have passed yet the operation of the market has not meet its objective of providing the consumers the power of choice. What is needed is retail outlets for prepaid electricity where prices can be competitive,” Nasecore said.

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.