ERC Surpasses 2019 Accomplishments Despite the Pandemic
The Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) in its year-end report indicated better numbers when compared to its Accomplishments in 2019. There is a noted 21% increase in terms of cases acted upon by the Commission despite the challenges brought forth by the COVID-19 pandemic.“ERC’s ability to quickly adapt to the ‘New Normal’ proves its resiliency and determination to fulfill its mandate that even this pandemic did not get in the way. We owe it to every taxpayer that we should perform our duties in spite of the challenges caused by the pandemic, the community quarantine implemented, and the limitations of the alternative work arrangement imposed by the government,”
said ERC Chairperson and CEO Agnes VST Devanadera.
In its report, the ERC registered a total of 748 cases acted upon during the year (2020) as against the 2019 accomplishment of 617 or a 21% increase. There are also increases in the number of Orders, Decisions, Resolutions, Notices, and Certificate of Approval/Authority issued by the Commission. The rise in figures can be attributed to the fact that the ERC continued to conduct hearings and conferences through virtual platforms to complete the legal proceedings that it should perform as part of its quasi-judicial functions. Corollary to that, the ERC promulgated the “Guidelines Governing Electronic Applications, Filings, and Virtual Hearings” to properly guide the relevant stakeholders with the electronic system of transacting with the ERC while protecting the health and ensuring the safety of all stakeholders.
More importantly, during the period of pandemic, the ERC also responded to calls for helping the plight of the distressed electricity consumers. Various rate reduction schemes were directed to be undertaken through Orders and Advisories issued during the government’s imposition of community quarantine to provide rate relief to the consuming public, particularly the following: (1) Reduction in the System Loss cap which was lowered by PhP0.05/kWh; (2) Reduced Feed-In-Tariff Allowance (FIT-All) by PhP0.1731/kWh; (3) Rate adjustment in the Net Settlement Surplus (NSS) equivalent to PhP1.94 Billion; (4) Refund of Regulatory Reset Experts Cost equivalent to PhP318.8 Million; (5) Lowering of the RCOA (Retail Competition and Open Access) threshold to cover more consumers that will enjoy lower generation rates; (6) Refund of over-recoveries of 64 Distribution Utilities (DUs) amounting to PhP3.3 Billion; (7) Refund of excess Market Transaction Fees (MTF) equivalent to PhP688 Million; (8) Avoided rate increase (amounting to PhP95.4 Million) due to the dismissal of PSALM’s Applications for recovery of Stranded Debts and Stranded Contract Costs due to Murang Kuryente Act; (9) Suspension of FIT-All and Universal Charge – Environmental Charge (UC-EC); and (10) Suspension of Bill Deposit Adjustment.
Distribution Utilities (DUs) were likewise ordered to allow their electricity customers to pay their electricity bills on a staggered basis up to six (6) equal monthly installments for their electricity bills during the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) and Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine (MECQ) periods without penalties, interests and other fees. Finally, during the said period, ERC had to beef up its Consumer Affairs Service (CAS) to ensure that consumer complaints are timely acted upon. The ERC set up additional communication channels to cater and address the consumers’ concerns on the high billings during the community quarantine periods. “The Commission has embraced the ‘New Normal’ and we are thankful that online platforms are abound to be explored and utilized to the fullest. We were surprised and happy to note that this pandemic even provided us the opportunity to optimize the use of digital technologies to continuously perform and deliver our mandate. As a result, we even surpassed our 2019 accomplishments without sacrificing the health and safety of electric power stakeholders and that of our employees,”
ERC Chair Devanadera added.