BAGUIO CITY (June 20) — A group of electric consumers is set to oppose Benguet Electric Cooperative’s (Beneco) application for approval of its electric power supply agreement (EPSA) with Hydro Electric Development Corp. (Hedcor), at the Beneco office here.
The local Chapter of the National Association of Electricity Consumers for Reform (Nasecore-Cordillera) an electric consumer group, submitted its five-point opposition dated June 18 to the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) only on June 19, when it entered its opposition as intervenor in the public hearing.
ERC Hearing Officer and Chair Lawyer Crispin Carlos reset the pre-trial conference on July 5 in ERC’s Manila office.
In its manifestation, Nasecore-Cordillera said, the main reason for its intervention is to ensure that Beneco is sourcing electricity from suppliers with the least cost possible without sacrificing quality, efficiency, reliability and security of the service.
Cooperative expert Emerita Fuerte, chapter president, specified her group’s opposition on the timing of Beneco’s application for approval when it has been implementing the two five-year contracts since 2004. “Beneco has been collecting increased power rates for more than two years already, why is it applying for ERC approval only now?” she told Nordis.
In a public hearing Monday and Tuesday, Beneco presented two of its EPSA’s one entered into with Northern Mini-hydro Corp (NMHC) in April 2004, the other with Hydro Electric Development Corp (HEDC,) in November of that year. Both companies are now collectively referred to as Hedcor.
NMHC was to supply power and energy generated by the Bakun Mini-Grid for five years starting April 26, 2004 to Poblacion, Amposungan and Palina in Bakun. On the other hand, Hedcor was to supply the energy produced by the Ampohaw Grid for five years starting on November 26, 2004 for Bagong, Balluay and Banengbeng in Sablan; and Bineng in La Trinidad.
Beneco Corporate Service Manager Brenda Carling clarified the power supply agreement in question involves a meager 0.14% of the total energy requirement of the electric utility. Mirant, another independent power producer (IPP) supplies 27% of Beneco power. The government-controlled National Power Corporation (NPC), gives the bigger portion, which is approximately 72%.
Fuerte said, however, although the amount of power from Hedcor is negligible it affects a portion of the Benguet population whose interests the electric consumers group has to consider also.
Counsel for the intervener Nasecore-Cordillera former Benguet Board Member Danio Bolislis pointed out the P0.95 per kilowatt-hour savings in the price of power if Beneco availed of the NPC-generated supply. “If NPC sells at a lower price, why does Beneco get supply from Hedcor?” Bolislis pointed out, saying it is disadvantageous to consumers who have to pay for the more expensive power. He said all electric consumers will shoulder the added costs, just like the systems losses which all consumers have to reckon with.
Bolislis disclosed NPC documents showing it could provide all the power requirement for Beneco as he questioned the deals with IPP’s.
Pending the ERC decision on the application, Carlos said, everything is “hors d’oeuvre” or on status quo. He said the agreement in question has been integrated in the 2003 unbundled rates which Beneco implemented. Carlos also noted there have been previous agreements in the 90’s but ERC still had no jurisdiction over the electric cooperatives then.
“This is the first public hearing ERC will conduct on Beneco’s power supply purchase agreements,” he told Nordis, adding that before rates are increased, any electric cooperative should obtain ERC approval. # Lyn V. Ramo for NORDIS