House energy committee wants IMEM suspended

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/07 March) — The House Committee on Energy recommended last Thursday the suspension of the electricity spot trading in Mindanao following objections from power distributors and consumers here.

Committee chair Rep. Reynaldo Umali (2nd District, Oriental Mindoro) announced their decision to suspend the Interim Mindanao Electricity Market (IMEM) just as the public hearing ended here late Thursday afternoon.

The committee also directed all power producers including owners of small generating facilities to connect to the Mindanao grid to help stave off a looming power crisis in Mindanao.

Umali said the members of the energy committee decided to suspend the trading after those who attended the public hearing showed their overwhelming opposition to the IMEM.

“This is already good as done. Once we furnish the DOE (Department of Energy) a copy of our resolution, the spot trading stops,” he said.

The IMEM was operationalized by the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines, a private corporation owned by Henry Sy of SM Group, the Coyuitos and the State Grid of China, to tap small independent owners of generator sets to the Mindanao grid.

The government spent at least P60 million to install the necessary hardware for the Mindanao spot market trading, but instead of lowering the rates and providing a stable supply of electricity, the island continues to experience rotational brownouts.

Rep. Rufus Rodriguez (2nd District, Cagayan de Oro) said spot market trading for Mindanao was considered because of the short supply of electricity following the shutdown of STEAG power plant in Villanueva, Misamis Oriental.

Rodriguez said the shortage can lead to price manipulation by power producers and distributors.

“The IMEM is susceptible to price manipulation because most of its trading is unregulated,” said Bayan Muna Rep. Karlos Isagani Zarate.

Industry executives estimated that if the IMEM prevailed and distributors have to buy electricity from it, consumers would pay an additional P3 per kilowatt-hour.

Sergio Dagooc, president of the Association of Mindanao Rural Electric Cooperatives said the increase would greatly affect 60 percent of Mindanao’s 23 million power users which are poor families using one electric bulb to light their homes . (Froilan Gallardo/MindaNews)