Senate seeks clear guidelines on review of ECs’ performance

By Myrna M. Velasco

The review on the performance of electric cooperatives (ECs) being initiated by the Department of Energy (DoE) has gotten defensible support from the Senate committee on energy, but it has batted for ‘clear review rules’ on such exercise.

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian (Facebook / MANILA BULLETIN) Senator Sherwin Gatchalian

Senator Sherwin T. Gatchalian, chairman of the energy committee at the upper chamber, noted that the move is logical primarily in holding the distribution utilities “accountable in their services to consumers by reviewing their technical and financial performance.”

He cited the recent ratings accorded by the National Electrification Administration (NEA) to at least seven ECs that had been classified as “ailing” or those with “D” rating; while 10 others were labeled as “underperforming” ECs.

Nevertheless, Gatchalian qualified that the DOE must have “a clear policy and procedure on the recommendation for revocation before actually submitting their recommendation to Congress.”

The energy department previously sought the cancellation of legislative franchises of at least 17 ECs, but it eventually backtracked on that move following questions on procedural lapses that it must have committed.

The DOE thus made subsequent announcement to the media that it will undertake comprehensive review of the ECs’ performance – and it will only be after, that it can recommend revocation or cancellation of specific franchises.

Nevertheless, arguments are raised that the DOE is not actually in a position to recommend such action to Congress – instead, it must refer such to NEA first for it to invoke its step-in rights into these ‘poor performing’ ECs.

For the Senate energy committee chair, it is also about time for them to scrutinize the performance of these power utilities – primarily in their operations and in rendering service to consumers.

“I believe Congress’ assessment will impose greater accountability on these underperforming distribution utilities to the benefit of the consumers,” he said.

The country’s electric cooperatives serve more than 12 million power customers, but in many of their service areas, complaints of rolling brownouts and inefficient services still abound.