ERC cautions ECs on slow power restoration in typhoon-hit areas

Published November 5, 2020, 3:54 PM

by Myrna M. Velasco

The Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) has cautioned power utilities in typhoon-hit areas that they would still need to comply with prescribed service levels that’s why they cannot afford to be moving too slow in the restoration of electricity service for their customers.

Citing prevailing rules in the industry, the regulatory body noted that “when interruptions occur, service shall be re-established within the shortest time practicable.”

And if a force majeure condition or fortuitous event happens, the ERC reminded the affected electric cooperatives (ECs) in domains ravaged by typhoons Quinta and Rolly to seek first the confirmation of the ERC before implementing their capital expenditure (capex) projects.

ERC Chairperson Agnes T. Devanadera

ERC Chairperson Agnes T. Devanadera noted that “in times like this, prompt restoration of power is what we need the most,” with her stressing that “our people, the consuming public, have already endured so much due to the pandemic, and now, exacerbated by another adversity.”

As of Thursday (November 5), the National Electrification Administration (NEA) reported that power restoration in some areas already hovered at 52-percent or equivalent 1.093 million households, out of the total 2.091 million households affected by super typhoon Rolly in the Bicol region; Eastern Visayas; the Mindoro-Marinduque-Romblon-Palawan (MIMAROPA) area; and the Cavite-Laguna-Batangas-Rizal-Quezon (CALABARZON) bloc.

The electrification agency stated that 998,375 households are still being tormented with blackouts – and these are primarily in the provinces of Camarines Sur, Camarines Norte, Catanduanes, Sorsogon and Albay; as several transmission facilities in Bicol are still unavailable.

Energy Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi earlier apprised media that the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) had already provided leeway on financial resources that shall be funneled to electricity service restoration in areas devastated by the recent extreme weather disturbance.

Further, Senate Committee on Energy Chairman Sherwin T. Gatchalian prompted the ECs to tap at least P250 million worth of funds allocated under the Electric Cooperatives Emergency and Resiliency Fund (ECERF) so they can rehabilitate and bring back to service their damaged facilities at a faster pace.

The energy department and NEA cannot give categorical timeframe yet on when power supply will be back especially at hardly-hit Albay and Catanduanes provinces – and there are assumptions that it might take two months before electricity service could be fully restored for consumers in these domains.

“Electric cooperatives and distribution utilities can draw funds from ECERF to enable them to repair their facilities as quickly as possible,” Gatchalian said.

He further explained that “this is a response fund. We have to utilize this in anticipation of situations like these. They (ECs) can quickly restore power lines without having to worry about the pass-on costs to the customers they serve.”