ERC sets virtual hearings, online filings for power sector

Published June 9, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Myrna M. Velasco

The Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) is instituting an interim policy that will set forth virtual hearings as well as electronic filings of applications and pleadings for cases that will be up for action and decision of the agency.

Agnes T. Devanadera
ERC Chairperson Agnes T. Devanadera

But before adopting such online set-up for the industry, the ERC is soliciting first the comments and inputs of the relevant industry stakeholders on its proposed guidelines.

“The proposed guidelines will allow and provide the ERC with a safe means to continuously perform its mandate amidst the ongoing public health emergency due to Covid-19,” the regulatory body has noted.

ERC Chairperson Agnes T. Devanadera primarily asked the concerned parties to submit their comments or raise their position on the interim guidelines on or before June 11, “so that their inputs and concerns may be considered and form part of the final guidelines to be promulgated by the Commission.”

The online processes of the Commission shall cover those on: filing of new quasi-judicial applications or petitions; filing of pleadings for cases pending before the ERC; as well as the conduct of virtual hearings and mediations.

The others would delve with: filing of application for certificate of compliance (COC); retail electricity suppliers’ license; meter type approval and authority to maintain meter shops; filing of consumer complaints; submission of reportorial requirements; and sending of request-letters to the ERC.

“The subject interim guidelines shall be in effect for the duration of the state of public health emergency and/or state of calamity, until and unless either or both declaration/s is or are lifted,” the ERC stressed.

It has to be noted that the ERC is in charge of approving all electricity rates being passed on to consumers – primarily for regulated entities such as the distribution utilities (DUs) and electric cooperatives; the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP); and even adjustments in the feed-in-tariff allowance (FIT-All) being passed on by the National Transmission Corporation.

All the power supply agreements (PSAs) underwritten by DUs with power generation companies (GenCos) shall also be approved by the ERC first before their rates can be passed on in the bills of consumers.

On the commencement as well as continued operations of power plants, the ERC also has to do technical inspection as well as render a ruling on the application for certificate of compliance (COC) of power plant owners/developers and their operators.

For the segment of big-ticket end-users served by retail electricity suppliers (RES), their licenses would also need an approval from the regulatory body before they could operate and serve consumers.

All these filings and applications as well as dispute cases in the industry will require conduct of hearings – which the ERC is now proposing to be done virtually while the coronavirus pandemic still lingers.