MERALCO pushing power rate hike, energy crisis to justify expansion of dirty coal power


21 January 2014

Environmental advocates from the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) join various groups in a picket at the Supreme Court to support oral arguments led by the Makabayan Bloc in Congress against the power rate hike of Manila Electric Company or Meralco. The activists said Meralco, which also has its own power generation firm, is projecting the price increases and the energy crisis to justify the expansion of coal-fired power plant projects in the country.

“Meralco is claiming that the power rate hikes are caused by increased power generation costs by power producers and are thus out of their hands. Aggravating the power costs for consumers is their wicked way of justifying the expansion of cheap but dirty power projects such as coal-fired power plants, some of which their power generation arm Meralco PowerGen Inc. conveniently owns or plans to build,” said Leon Dulce, campaign coordinator of Kalikasan PNE.

Meralco Powergen owns a 600-megawatt coal-fired power plant in Subic Bay through a joint venture with RP Energy, though it is currently stopped as a result of a Writ of Kalikasan filed by Kalikasan PNE alongside various other groups in 2012. It also plans to begin construction of a new 460-megawatt coal-fired power plant in Mauban, Quezon late this year.

“It is duplicitous to claim that they are powerless in controlling the generation costs incurred by power producers when they themselves are part of the energy monopoly that drives these costs. We have been expanding coal power since the privatization of the industry began, seeing as a result the 348-percent increase in installed generating capacity of coal from 1997 to 2012. Yet we have seen an 88.35 percent increase in power rates over the same time period,” Dulce noted.

Figures from the Department of Energy indicate that the installed power generation capacity from coal projects increased from 1,600 Mega-watts in 1997 to 5,568 Mw in 2012.

The group criticized the idea of granting emergency powers to President Benigno Simeon Aquino III over the supposed looming energy crisis which Meralco warned would result from the temporary restraining order (TRO) filed against the power rate hike, saying “it would only result in a presidential push for more coal-fired power plants.”

“We remember Pres. Aquino himself defending dirty coal especially during his state of the nation address last year. Granting Pres. Aquino emergency powers would only further encourage his false notion that more cheap coal power would help alleviate the price hikes. The real problem is the monopoly of the industry from power generation down to transmission as a result of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) wholesale of the energy industry to private interests,” Dulce said.

Kalikasan PNE joined the calls for a speedy court resolution nullifying the power rate hike and for the repeal of the EPIRA privatization policy, and also pushed for a moratorium on new and expanding coal-fired power plants in the country.###

Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan-PNE)
No.26 Matulungin St. Bgy. Central, Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines 1100
Tel. No. +63-2-9248756  Fax No. +63-2-9209099