By Louise Dumas
The Konsumanteng Kagay-anon, partnered with the Archdiocesan Good Governance Apostolate conducted a public forum on the Ancillary Services Charges of the National Grid Corp. (NGCP) imposed on Mindanao consumers.
After the power problem experienced by the Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro - and in fact the rest of Mindanao- since February, consumers were shocked to find that their electric bills have doubled. Parishioners of the Our Lady of Fatima Parish who attended the forum decried the fact that their bills went up but they could not understand the items listed on their billing statements. The representative from the Cagayan Electric Power and Light Company, however, said that they had issued a memorandum about the increase and that it had been due to the ancillary services charged by the NGCP.
Engr. Cerael Donggay, former NPC vice president for Mindanao, explained the dynamics of the ancillary services. A discussion paper made by Engr. David A. Tauli was also handed out to the audience. Among the arguments presented questioning the validity of the ancilliary charges had been that the power barges of Therma Marine Inc. (TMI) were operated as base load in February. Since this had been the case, charging should not be as ancillary service which is higher than for the base load operations.
Engr. Tauli’s paper also reasoned that the Ancillary Services is only to support the main transmission service. It includes Contingency Reserves, Reactive Power support and Black Start capability. The main problem during the power crisis, however, had been the actual supply for distribution to consumers and not reserves. The power plants in Mindanao, according to the discussion, had also no need for support in their Black Start capability. Black Start capability refers to the process of recovery from a Total System Blackout using a generating unit without an external power supply.
Other points were discussed including the validity of NGCP going into a contract with providers instead of the NPC or the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management (PSALM) Corporation which was set up to manage the power sector of the Philippines after the government decided to restructure the sector through privatization.
According to Engr. Tauli’s discussion paper, the Ancillary Services Procurement Agreement between the NGCP and TMI was only given a Provisional Approval. Presently, the Energy Regulatory Commission is conducting hearings for the approval of the ASPA. The multi-sectoral audience which attended the forum agreed to form a group which would lobby legislations that would solve the power problem in Mindanao and at the same time find ways to stop the approval of the ASPA of NGCP and TMI.