THE ENERGY Regulatory Commission (ERC) remained evasive about how it plans to respond to the Energy department’s call for the regulator to come up with rules that will allow customers whose consumption reached the set threshold to buy electricity from retailers on a voluntary basis.

Hindi rin natin puwedeng pag-usapan ’yun (We can’t talk about that),” ERC Chairperson and Chief Executive Officer Agnes VST Devanadera told reporters when asked about the agency’s next move after the Department of Energy (DoE) issued Department Circular No. DC 2019-07-0011.

DC 2019-07-0011 amends various issuances of the DoE in implementing retail competition and open access (RCOA), which is called for under the law to allow greater competition among power sellers by letting “contestable” consumers — or those whose consumption has a pre-determined level — choose their electricity supplier.

Kami naman we’re very, very careful in interpreting or not interpreting the TRO of the Supreme Court,” she said.

Ms. Devanadera was referring the temporary restraining order issued by the Supreme Court that stopped the implementation of many provisions of RCOA. She said what the ERC did was to pursue “a very thorough study.”

The TRO has kept RCOA applicable only to those consuming a monthly average of one megawatt (MW) or more in the past year.

Nasa last phase na kami in the sense that tinitingnan namin alin ’yung puwedeng ma-move ng ERC, alin ang sa pag-aaral namin ay hindi pala nahagip ng TRO (We’re in the last phase in the sense that we’re looking at what the ERC can do next and what were not covered by the TRO),” she said.

Ms. Devanadera said the ERC reviewed its past issuances relating to RCOA and some may not be covered by the TRO.

Kasi ang (A) TRO cannot be all encompassing or we cannot be assuming na ito rin kasali (that this is also included), talagang pinag-aaralan (that’s why were studying it carefully) because the TRO should be limited to the wordings of the TRO,” she added.

She declined to say whether the lowering of the threshold was included in the TRO based on the ERC’s interpretation.

“We will be issuing something. We will be acting on applications that are not covered by the TRO,” she said.

The DoE circular, which was published in newspapers on Aug. 14, states that: “Consistent with the definition of Open Access, CCs (contestable customers) are hereby allowed the use of the transmission and distribution systems and may voluntarily register as a Trading Participant in the WESM (wholesale electricity spot market).”

Republic Act No. 9136 or the Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001 (EPIRA) mandates that upon the initial implementation of “open access,” the ERC is to allow electricity end-users with a monthly average peak demand of at least 1 MW for the preceding 12 months to be part of the contestable market.

Two years after, the threshold level for the contestable market is to be reduced to 750 kilowatts (kW).

At this level, aggregators are allowed to supply electricity to these contestable customers whose total demand within a contiguous area is at least 750 kW.

“Consistent with the objectives of EPIRA and its implementing Rules and Regulations (EPIRA-IRR), and other applicable rules and regulations, a CC shall source its electricity supply requirement from ERC-licensed/authorized Suppliers,” the DoE circular states.

The DoE circular has also directed the ERC to issue the relevant rules and regulations necessary to implement the circular with 30 calendar days from its effectivity. — Victor V. Saulon