By Myrna M. Velasco
In less than a year, the market operator of the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM) is having its second president in Engineer Jose Mari T. Bigornia, replacing lawyer Francis Saturnino Juan whose term at the Independent Electricity Market Operator of the Philippines (IEMOP) had been cut short to April 30 this year.
Bigornia is currently the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of the IEMOP and formerly a member of the WESM governance committee. With the leadership change, long-time executive Robinson P. Descanzo has also been named the new COO.
The management shakeup transpired following the WESM market operator-firm’s board meeting on April 23 – and after the reported audit undertaken by the Department of Energy. The outcome of that audit had not been made public yet, although, it was hinted to the media that it was just about assessing the performance of the spot market in the past year.
One of the major concerns raised on the leadership changeover was reportedly the desire of the outgoing IEMOP President to make the market operator truly independent – but this ended up exasperating some personalities who have not actually designed the WESM to become an “independent entity” – instead, for it to be operating still under the shadows of government’s control.
The choice set-up of independent market operator (IMO) of the WESM has been raising some questions because this diverted from the strategy adopted by other electricity spot markets in other parts of the world.
Conversely in other jurisdictions, spot markets tapped financially capable entities so they can operate on their own without depending solely on the fees being paid by the trading participants (or the buyers and sellers in the spot market). That way, they are also able to exercise independence not just from the government regulators and policymakers but also from the industry players.
The IMO installation for the Philippine WESM was institutionalized June last year – and Juan was among the prime movers in the transition phase. It did not last long for him though to see how the market should have transformed and matured under an independent operator. Juan formally submitted his resignation this week.
The power spot market has been going through reform processes – including its trading platform under the ambit of a new market management system (NMMS) which it has been targeting to be concretized around October this year. The market operator is also pursuing the establishment of WESM in Mindanao, so it can serve as alternative market to capacities that are not yet contracted in the grid.