The quest for cheaper energy

By Herbert Vego

FIRST, the good news for Bacolod City and suburbs: The debt-ridden Central Negros Cooperative Cooperative (CENECO) is about to get a new lease on life with the apparent win of the “yes” votes for its joint venture agreement (JVA) with Primelectric/MORE Power.

“Unofficially yes,” quipped MORE Power President Roel Z. Castro during our interview with him on the program “Tribuna sang Banwa” on Aksyon Radyo-Iloilo/Facebook Live last Sunday.

It’s because, as required under the plebiscite rules, more than 50% of the 177,737 eligible voting member consumers of Ceneco had already voted “yes” on the fourth day of the six-day JVA plebiscite.

“By now,” Castro enthused, 62 percent have voted ‘yes’. Only 18 percent went ‘no”.”

Asked whether the remaining two days (Sept. 2 and 3) of the six-day plebiscite would no longer push through since they could not overturn the verdict, he would rather leave it to Ceneco and the National Electrification Administration (NEA) for disposition.

Castro added that it is necessary for Ceneco to proclaim the JVA “approved”.

Its approval will pave the way for Primelectric (MORE Power’s affiliate) to partner with Ceneco under a new name, Negros Electric and Power Corp. (NEPC), in serving around 210,000 power consumers in the cities of Bacolod, Bago, Talisay, and Silay, and the towns of Murcia and Don Salvador Benedicto.

That’s more than double MORE Power’s rapidly growing number of consumers, now almost 94,000.

Methinks the main reason for the JVA’s acceptability is the need for a private firm to revitalize Ceneco, which has an admitted monthly operational loss averaging 25 million pesos.

Castro stressed the importance of Bacolod Mayor Albee Benitez’s endorsement after having talked to Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas on how MORE Power was faring.

“Treñas gave him a positive response,” the MORE Power president/CEO said.

By operation of the economies of scale – where costs decline in relation to bigger production – distribution utilities naturally hope to be more efficient. MORE Power’s thrust is to maximize distribution of clean renewable energy. As of today, the company gets 40% of its cheaper energy requirements from geothermal plants.

Asked about the company’s expansion of coverage to certain towns of Iloilo province, Castro said, “It is going on.  We have been installing primary lines in Pavia, San Miguel and Santa Barbara.”

There is “nothing unconstitutional” with friendly competition with the Iloilo Electric Cooperative (ILECO), Castro stressed.

This corner agrees.  After more than 25 years of inefficiency among monopolistic electric cooperatives, the need to de-monopolize its areas of operation beckons.

MORE Power’s household rates have been gradually decreasing for eight straight months, now at P10.98 per kilowatt-hour.

With the trend to go “solar” – now that prices of solar panels are getting cheaper but more efficient – we would not be surprised if MORE Power would put up a solar farm. With power generated by the sun, it would emit no toxic fumes, hence environment friendly; and it would free consumers from sudden price movements, such as those traced to the Russian-Ukraine war.

Would a solar farm rise in the city or the province of Iloilo, considering that thousands of hectares would be needed to install solar panels?

Let us wait and see.