Senator Gatchalian files resolution on ECQ impact on power sector; mulls need for a stimulus package

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Senator Win Gatchalian has filed a resolution to determine the short, medium, and long-term effects on the power sector and consumers of the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Likewise, Gatchalian is calling for an inquiry if it’s necessary for Congress to craft a financial stimulus package for the power sector to ensure continuous and reliable supply of energy while protecting electricity consumers.

In filing Senate Resolution (SB) No. 361, the lawmaker wants to look into how consumers can cope with payments of all electricity bill obligations at the end of the ECQ. The Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC), in its April 15 advisory, has directed all Distribution Utilities (DUs), such as the Manila Electric Company (Meralco), and Retail Electricity Suppliers (RES) to provide a grace period in electricity bills payment due within the ECQ period from March 16 to April 30 without interest, penalties, fees and other charge. The ERC has also agreed on staggering piled up payments for four months.

The Senate Energy Committee Chair also wants to know the ramifications on the generation charge being paid by consumers if DUs are not able to meet the required minimum energy offtake. The Department of Energy (DOE) has seen around 30% reduction in electricity demand from March to April due to delays in ongoing construction of power plants and transmission projects.

The ERC has suspended the payment of all fees of DUs to Power Generation Companies (gencos) due within the quarantine period.

After the suspension of electricity bill and DU payments, Gatchalian wants to know if gencos can carry on with their operations and avert possible worst-case scenario of shutting down that could trigger power interruptions.

“Nakita natin sa pag-implement ng enhanced community quarantine ang pagbaba ng transport, industrial, at commercial activities sa bansa, na nagresulta sa pagbaba din ng pagkonsumo ng kuryent. Ang patuloy na pagbagsak ng konsumo ng kuryente ay maaring makaapekto sa energy security ng ating bansa,” said Gatchalian.

“In preparing for these possible effects, it is necessary for Congress to determine the necessity of a financial stimulus package for the power sector with the end goal of ensuring a continuous and reliable supply of energy while protecting the consumers,” he ended./Stacy Ang

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