THE Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) has reminded power generation companies, including those that are required to invite competitive bidders for their output, to continue operating in the face of an expected tight supply around April and May.

ERC Chairperson and Chief Executive Officer Agnes VST Devanadera told reporters on Wednesday that the agency was looking at measures in view of the advice from the Department of Energy (DoE) of a possible power deficiency during the summer months.

Asked to quantify the deficiency, she said: “Kulang na 1,800 to 1,900 [megawatts, MW],” she said, adding that the projected deficiency numbers came from the Energy department. She said the shortfall might even be felt by consumers in Luzon as early as March this year.

Ang tinignan namin ‘yung ano pwede naming gawin (What we are looking at is what we can possibly do [to address the deficiency],” she said.

Ms. Devanadera said internally, what the agency was doing is to “move” the permitting and inspection of ongoing power plant projects. She added that the ERC has more engineers now, but its initiatives is just a “small aspect” in terms of increasing power supply.

“We cannot build plants, but the only thing left for us is, number one, how we dealt with the Supreme Court decision on the 153 PSAs (power supply agreements) that were told to undergo CSP (competitive selection process),” she said.

“So as a matter of policy we told them: ‘Don’t stop your supply while you’re doing your CSP.’ So there was that [directive],” she said.

“The problem [is, they ask]: ‘Kukuha ba kami sa DoE ng exemption o hindi? (Should we ask for an exemption from the DoE or not?). Basta ang sabi namin (We just tell them): ‘Don’t stop your supply.’ They are required,” she said.

Tuloy lang ‘yung pag-supply kasi paghininto mo naman ‘yun (Just continue with the power supply because if it stops) as an effect of the Supreme Court decision, that’s 1,000 plus megawatts again on top of the real shortage,” she said.

On May 6, 2019, the Supreme Court announced its decision requiring all PSAs forged after June 30, 2015 to undergo a competitive selection process to arrive at the least-cost power for consumers.

The ERC asked the high court to reconsider its decision, but this was denied. The commission had said that the ruling would result in the cessation of power supply to 52 distribution utilities that are serving 13 million electricity consumers — 9.371 million from Luzon, 1.767 million from Visayas, and 1.978 million from Mindanao, it added.

On Monday, Ms. Devanadera said the ERC is set to issue in February its decision on the power supply deals that went through competitive bids, including those called by the country’s largest distribution utility Manila Electric Co. (Meralco).

Tapos na ‘yung hearings. Pina-finalize na ‘yung resolution (The hearings are completed. The resolution is being finalized),” she told reporters after a hearing at the Senate.

Asked about the specific power supply agreements that went through a competitive selection process will be covered by the resolution, she said: “Lahat ‘yan February lalabas. I mean ‘yung CSP ‘yung filed.”

(All of them will be issued a decision in February. I mean those with a filed CSP.)

She answered in the affirmative when asked whether Meralco’s PSA is covered in the upcoming resolution.

A CSP has become part of the process before the ERC acts on a PSA application after the ERC and the DoE came out with rules meant to bring down electricity costs. The lowest-cost bid for power supply that met the set conditions is awarded the PSA, but subject to the commission’s scrutiny and decision. — Victor V. Saulon