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ERC orders TransCo to respond to consumer petition over 2016 FiT

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THE Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) ordered state-run National Transmission Corp. (TransCo) to respond to a petition filed by a consumer group seeking to render null and void the regulator’s decision that called for the collection of a higher feed-in-tariff allowance of P0.1830 per kilowatt-hour for 2016.

In its order dated Feb. 27, 2018 the ERC gave TransCo up to 10 days upon receipt of the order to respond to the petition filed by Victorio Mario A. Dimagiba, president of consumer advocacy group Laban Konsyumer, Inc. (LKI).

The ERC order was in response to Mr. Dimagiba’s petition that was filed on Oct. 27, 2017. It followed the decision by the regulator to grant a feed-in-tariff allowance (FiT-All) that is higher than the P0.1025 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) asked for by TransCo.

Calculated annually, the FiT-All is a uniform charge applied to the kilowatt-hours billed to consumers who are supplied with electricity through the country’s distribution or transmission network.

The uniform charge is paid to developers of renewable energy power plants. The FiT-All mechanism was established under the Renewable Energy Act of 2008, which aims to jump-start the development of renewable energy sources such as wind, run-of-river hydroelectric-power, solar and biomass plants.

The collected amount is managed by TransCo before the fund is paid to the developers. The FiT-All was added in the monthly bills of electricity users starting in 2016.

TransCo applied for a FiT-All for 2016 of P0.1025/kWh and set the case for submission of jurisdictional compliance on March 8, 2016 for the Luzon consumers and other dates for the rest of the country.

On Feb. 16, 2016 while TransCo’s application was pending, the ERC issued a provisional authority for a FiT-All for 2016 in the amount of P0.1240/kWh, which took effect immediately.

But on May 9, 2017, the commission granted an additional amount of P0.0590/kWh from the current P0.1240/kWh, bringing the total FiT-All for 2016 to P0.1830/kWh.

Mr. Dimagiba said in his petition that there was no amendment and no republication of the TransCo application on the FiT-All variance approved by the commission in May 2017 and the rate applied for by TransCo.

He cited a Sept. 5, 2017 order by the ERC on TransCo’s FiT-All application that laid down doctrines on jurisdiction and due process. He then raised the issue of whether or not there would be legal implications in allowing the proposed amendments.

In his petition, Mr. Dimagiba asked the ERC to render the May 9, 2017 decision null and void for lack of jurisdiction.

Mr. Dimagiba said he had received a copy of the ERC order to TransCo on March 12, 2018. He said it was “good the petition is now moving.”

“LKI will exhaust all legal remedies to ensure a successful petition,” he said.

Melvin A. Matibag, TransCo president and chief executive officer, earlier said that he expected to end 2017 with P8 billion in outstanding payables. The amount includes the interest incurred because of the delay in meeting payment obligations.

He said the P0.1830/kWh approved by ERC for 2016 was insufficient to address TransCo’s total payables. TransCo has a pending application for P0.2291 for 2017 and has yet to receive even a provisional authority to collect the higher amount.

Mr. Matibag said for 2018, TransCo requires a FiT-All of P0.29 to P0.30/kWh.

As of Nov. 6, 2017, TransCo has managed to pay P27.26 billion or 79.44% of its obligations. Its unpaid balance as of the period was P7.06 billion, excluding interest payment of P288.92 million. — Victor V. Saulon