Benitez seeks DOE price cap on power rates

Mayor Alfredo “Albee” Benitez in a press conference at the Mayor’s Office in Bacolod City Government Center (BCGC) Monday. (Glazyl Y. Masculino)

By Glazyl Y. Masculino 

BACOLOD CITY – Mayor Alfredo “Albee” Benitez is asking the Department of Energy (DOE) to impose a price cap to temporarily halt the increasing power rates.

“I have just asked DOE, Usec. (Sharon) Garin if we can trigger the provision of the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC), putting a cap on our electricity rates, just like what the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) is doing. In certain circumstances, in certain calamities, we put a price freeze on our commodities,” Benitez said in a press briefing on Monday.

Benitez said he had asked the DOE to provide guidelines on how they can trigger the price cap for power rates, citing a provision in the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) law, which allows the ERC to put a price ceiling or price cap on power rates.

“We’re waiting for their response within the week,” he added.

Just last week, the Central Negros Electric Cooperative (Ceneco) announced that due to a significant increase in electricity generation costs and market prices, the residential rate for May 2024 will be P15.1632 per kilowatt-hour (kWh). This marks an upward adjustment of P3.2066/kWh compared to the previous month’s rate of P11.9566/kWh.

Ceneco General Manager Atty. Arnel Lapore explained that various factors influence the rate computation. The main contributor to the rate hike for May is a 31.96 percent increase in the Generation Charge, resulting from a rise in the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM) price from P8.0879/kWh to P12.6706/kWh.

“We have never experienced power rates this high,” Benitez said, appealing for a rate below P15.1/kWh.

Benitez pointed out that the increase in power rates could be due to higher demand for electricity and lower power supply.

“If the demand is higher, and the supply remains, the rate goes up. That’s where the government should intervene,” the mayor said.

He appealed for a price cap for Ceneco but noted that if the ERC could apply it nationwide, it would be much appreciated.

“It’s more about making the ERC aware of our situation due to the El Niño phenomenon. They should really come in this time,” he added.

Benitez expressed the hope that the ERC would act promptly to address the situation.