ERC stepping up digital readiness on project approvals, virtual hearings

Published March 25, 2021, 8:00 AM

by Myrna M. Velasco

Following Presidential mandate on reinforced ‘digital readiness’ among government agencies, the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) stated it is now at the process of doing all the spadework on it switch to online platforms for key facets of its systems and operations.

The power industry regulator said this is part of the ‘new normal’ being precipitated by the niggling Covid-19 pandemic, so services in government, won’t be unruffled.

“In line with President Duterte’s directive to government agencies to ensure digital readiness in the new normal environment, the ERC has prepared for this shift to digitalization and has had initial efforts in place to enable paperless or digital transactions in the agency,” the agency stipulated.

ERC Chairperson Agnes T. Devanadera

As laid down by ERC Chairperson Agnes T. Devanadera, “the Commission has gradually shifted to and adapted digital technologies and online systems as part of our compliance with the Energy Virtual One-Stop Shop (EVOSS) Law.”

She explained that the agency has its interface with the integrated EVOSS web portal, “and we see to it that we adhere to the requirements, especially with respect to the timeframes in acting on applications filed with the agency, as specified in the law.”

The EVOSS law enforces the electronic filing as well as approvals of applications for energy projects within specified timelines – and the setting up of the main IT platform was placed under the charge of the Department of Energy.

Aside from the ERC, the other agency approvals linked with the EVOSS system are those of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, Department of Agrarian Reform, Department of Agriculture, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, National Water Resources Board, Philippine National Police, Department of Public Works and Highways; the local government units; as well as relevant industry stakeholders, such as the Independent Electricity Market Operator of the Philippines which is operating the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market; and then transmission firm National Grid Corporation of the Philippines.

Devanadera asserted “we are confident that the ERC is prepared to go digital,” with her emphasizing that “we have a digitally skilled workforce, a robust information system and a digital-ready work processes that are in place to successfully adapt to the new normal environment.”

And to subsequently apprise affected stakeholders for that digital transformation of ERC’s systems and processes, the agency previously issued its guidelines on electronic applications, filings and virtual hearings – as prescribed under its ERC Resolution No. 9 Series of 2020.

“With the said guidelines in place, the ERC was able to optimize the use of online platforms and even surpassed its 2019 accomplishments,” the regulatory body has emphasized.

Relative to its digital transformation, the Commission indicated that it will “dedicate a team to facilitate the processing of permit applications for permanent power connections.”

Further, the regulatory body noted that it will consider in its policy formulation “the power capacity requirements of telecommunications infrastructure,” and will at the same time “inspect the absorptive capacity of electric companies and cooperatives in providing power requirements.” (MMV)