Missionary areas brace for intermittent power in February

Rural areas powered by the Small Power Utilities Group or SPUG may experience intermittent power supply next month after the National Power Corporation slashes their allocated reserves amid shortage and delay in subsidy distribution.

Starting 1 February, the NPC will implement electricity service reduction in SPUG areas due to fuel supply shortage and the delay in Universal Cost for Missionary Electrification subsidy payment.

NPC president Fernando Martin Roxas said he requested a P5 billion loan solely for fuel purchases, but it is likely to be released by May. Likewise, he said he coordinated with electric cooperatives for possible advancement of payment for fuel.

Energy officials convened with over 20 electric cooperatives last Tuesday, 17 January, to resolve the fuel supply problems in SPUG areas. They will have another forum on 26 January to discuss the advance payment process for fuel purchases.

The Energy Regulatory Commission, for its part, vowed to expedite the review of NPC’s relevant petitions following due process and proceedings, in addition to looking for alternative solutions to solve the present crisis in missionary areas.

Record high fuel costs

In early 2022, the average diesel price was only P47.43 per liter; it gradually jacked up in just four months to as high as P80 per liter, which the NPC said exhausted its earmarked funds.

Thus, the agency implemented corporate-wide austerity measures to channel more funds and realigned P1.2 billion to fuel expenses.

Initially, the NPC also warned about cutting the operating hours of some power plants, but the Department of Budget and Management allowed it to utilize the unobligated national government subsidies from previous years. The funds came in two tranches, amounting to P1.319 billion and P1.027 billion, respectively.

Apart from these, the NPC also expects to receive an additional P180 million monthly from its UCME true-up collections as approved by regulators from November 2022 to December this year.

The national government has granted NPC another P2.99 billion to augment its budget for payment to the New Power Providers/Qualified Third Parties. However, this amount only covered past due accounts payable to NPPs/QTPs up to September 2022.

“In the coming months, the payables will continue to accumulate since the approved UCME will only cover around 60 percent of the billing statement of NPPs/QTPs — P864 million UCME receivables from PSALM vs. P1.5 billion estimated billing per month,” the NPC explained.

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