Negros Occidental

Negros Occidental power cooperatives increase rates

Erwin Delilan

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Negros Occidental power cooperatives increase rates

Raffy de Guzman/Rappler

A local business group says the rate increases are too much for establishments and ordinary workers

BACOLOD, Philippines – Electric cooperatives in Negros Occidental announced they are increasing their respective power rates by an average of P3 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) for May.

They cited the rise in the power generation charges, especially in the price of electricity supplied by the government power retailer, Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM), as the main reason behind the increase.

Northern Negros Electric Cooperative (NONECO) and Negros Occidental Electric Cooperative (NOCECO) announced an upward rate adjustment of P3.33/kWh, while Central Negros Electric Cooperative (CENECO) has increase it to P3.2126/kWh.

NONECO’s current residential rate is P17.8974/kWh, up from its April billing of only P14.5674/kWh.

NOCECO’s rate is now P17.9605/kWh, up from the previous month’s P14.6309, while CENECO’s rate increased from P11.9566/kWh to P15.1632/kWh.

Negrense and Bacoleño consumers took to social media to express their disappointment at the May power rate increases.

Max Macahilo, a resident of Murcia town, described CENECO’s May billing as “horrible.”

In an interview with Rappler on Sunday, May 18, Macahilo said he was dismayed to receive a new electricity bill from CENECO amounting to P4,200, up from only P1,800 the previous month.

Frank Carbon, chief executive officer of the Metro Bacolod Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MBCCI), said the P15 or P17/kWh rate was “too much.”

He noted that 90% of businesses in Bacolod and Negros Occidental are small and medium-sized enterprises that cannot afford these latest power rate increases.

“The worst-case scenario is for businesses to adopt work rotations or, worse, lay off some of their employees,” Carbon warned.

For low-income workers in the province, Carbon said the new power rate increases will consume almost 70% to 80% of their monthly income.

“So, what will happen to their food needs? This is really, really a headache for ordinary Negrenses and Bacoleños,” he said.

National Electrification Administration (NEA) chief Antonio Mariano Almeda sought to address consumers’ and businesses’ concerns.

In a public advisory dated May 16 but released to the Bacolod media on Sunday, May 18, Almeda said the primary cause of the increase in electricity rates in the Visayas, particularly in Negros Occidental, was the power generation component.

The generation charge is a pass-through cost from the power suppliers to distribution utilities (DUs) or the ECs, the NEA chief explained.

“This means,” Almeda said, “that the costs incurred by the power suppliers are directly transferred to the ECs and then to the consumers.”

Janeene Colingan, executive director of the Philippine Rural Electric Cooperatives Association (PHILRECA), said power generation costs rose during the time during the time when yellow and red alerts in the Visayas grid was raised in April by the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP).

She suggested that distressed ECs borrowed money from banks to cushion the impact of the rising costs.

Carbon, however, said borrowing money would be a “dangerous move” for the ECs in Negros Occidental. Such a move would entail huge interests that consumers would ultimately bear, he said.

Carbon said, “As far as I know, the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) already greenlit ECs in Negros Occidental to make an emergency power purchase good for one year outside of WESM so they can avoid, for the meantime, the P14 to P16/kWh pricing.”

Carbon also noted that the lack of power generating plants in the Visayas remains a major factor in the region’s rising power rates. –

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