ERC logs 21% hike in cases resolved in pandemic-stricken 2020

Published January 10, 2021, 6:30 AM

by Myrna M. Velasco

The coronavirus pandemic may have limited physical mobility in government offices, but the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) reported that it logged ‘better performance’ in 2020, with higher number of cases resolved within the period.

The regulatory body said there had been 21-percent hike in terms of cases acted upon last year, “despite the challenges brought forth by the Covid-19 pandemic.”

The agency said it sorted a total of 748 cases last year, which climbed by more than 20-percent from 617 resolved cases in 2019.

The major cases decided by the ERC so far include the: hike in feed-in-tariff allowance (FIT-All charge) for renewable energy (RE); adjustment in net settlement surplus for the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market; the adjustments and refund of the under-recoveries and over-recoveries of the Manila Electric Company; decision on lowering the threshold for retail competition and open access (RCOA) policy; suspension of the pass-on of FIT-All charge during the lockdown period; and dismissal of the pending universal charge (UC) applications for stranded contract cost and stranded debts of state-run Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corporation.

The area where the ERC had drawn fierce criticism was on its slow action on the complaints lodged by consumers because of questionable billings during the lockdown period within March to May.

ERC Chairperson Agnes T. Devanadera

Overall though, ERC Chairperson Agnes T. Devanadera qualified that the regulatory agency swiftly adjusted to the ‘new normal’ and that had stepped up ERC’s overall performance last year.

“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,” she said.

Devanadera added “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.”

The ERC said it also registered higher number of cases acted upon that led to the issuances of orders, decisions, resolutions, notices and certificates of approval or authority warranted from 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,” the agency noted.

To underpin its operations during the pandemic, the ERC promulgated and enforced electronic lodgment of applications/petitions, filings as well as the conduct of virtual public hearings on cases pending for its action.

“This pandemic provided us the opportunity to optimize the use of digital technologies to continuously perform and deliver our mandate,” according to the ERC chief, while adding that “as a result, we even surpassed our 2019 accomplishments without sacrificing the health and safety of electric power stakeholders and that of our employees.”