By Victor V. Saulon
THE Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) will be monitoring the impact of the higher feed-in-tariff allowance (FiT-All) that will be collected from electricity users starting this month, its chairman said, adding that the agency remains open to suggestions from all sectors.
“Anything that has impact on the [power] rates, we always monitor,” said Agnes T. Devanadera, ERC chairman and chief executive officer. “The timeline is June, but… we continue to monitor,” she told reporters.
Last month, the ERC authorized the collection of the FiT-All equivalent to P0.2563 per kilowatt-hour (kWh), or an increase of P0.0733/kWh from the current P0.1830/kWh. The new rate covers the FiT-All for 2017.
“That should have been decided before so we could have had lower interest [rates],” Ms. Devanadera said, adding that the rates would be higher if the ERC decides later on the application of state-led National Transmission Corp. (TransCo).
“So parang (So it’s like) bite the bullet. Decide it now, so we did that,” she said.
Calculated annually, the FiT-All is a uniform charge that is 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 hydropower, 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 previously said the P0.1830/kWh approved by ERC for 2016 was insufficient to address the company’s total payables. It had estimated its obligations as of end-2017 at about P8 billion, largely incurred because of the delay in the approval of its rate application. For 2018, TransCo wants a FiT-All of P0.29 to P0.30/kWh.
“Maliwang na ngayon (It’s clear now), but sometimes there are the usual feedback from the general public. So titingnan namin. ’Di namin sinasabi sarado na kaming lahat [sa] suggestions n’yo (So we will see. We’re not saying that we have stopped entertaining suggestions). I’m not anticipating anything big that will stop that, but my message is: we are open to suggestions,” she said.
Asked about what could possibly prompt the ERC to reconsider its approval of the FiT-All increase, she said: “Let’s say if there’s an error in the computation. But we don’t see that now.”
A consumer group on Monday asked the ERC to reconsider its decision to grant the collection of the higher FiT-All for 2017.
Laban Konsyumer, Inc. (LKI), through Victorio Mario A. Dimagiba, said the ERC decision “is null and void and without legal effect as it violates the basic and cardinal principle of the first rights guaranteed in our Bill of Rights of the 1987 Constitution (Sec. 1, Article III), which mandates that: ‘no person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law, nor shall any person be denied the equal protection of the law.’”
In its motion for reconsideration, the group also said that the granted rate was higher than the FiT-All sought for approval by TransCo at P0.2291/kWh. It said the ERC’s action “is an act of grave abuse of discretion tantamount to lack or excess of jurisdiction on the part of this Honorable Commission.”
LKI said the ERC should be reminded that it itself ruled in an order dated Sept. 5, 2017 that “when public interest is to be compromised, the Commission’s rules and resolutions should be strictly observed to protect consumer interest.”