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Senate Energy Committee to investigate power price rigging

Senators turn their attention to the ceiling at the Session Hall Chamber after a whizzing noise disrupts the plenary, Aug. 3. The Senate Energy Committee chaired by Sen. Win Gatchalian will investigate possible electricity price rigging by industry players in connection to a recent massive blackout that hit Luzon. (Photo by Mark Cayabyab)

Senate Committee on Energy Chairman Win Gatchalian confirmed that his committee would investigate possible price rigging by electricity industry players in connection to the simultaneous shutdown of six power plants on the Luzon grid last weekend which caused massive spikes in electricity rates for millions of consumers across the entire island.

“What we want is to determine what really happened and come out with legislation to prevent this type of collusion [from] happening,” Gatchalian said during a live television interview.

Gatchalian, the freshman senator from Valenzuela City, said his committee would take action on a Senate resolution, filed yesterday by Senate Minority Leader Ralph Recto, calling for an inquiry into possible collusion among industry insiders after the six plants, which provide more than 13 percent of the Luzon grid’s installed capacity, went offline for unscheduled maintenance at the same time.

As a result, electricity prices in the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM) jumped to five times the normal rate, from an average of P4 per kilowatt hour over the last month to a whopping P20 per kilowatt hour from July 29 to 30.

“We have to [know] if we have mechanisms to prevent collusion and to punish collusion, and that’s where the legislature will come in,” said Gatchalian.

Additionally, Gatchalian reiterated his commitment to working with the Duterte administration in crafting a forward-looking plan in pursuit of building a stable and efficient energy supply for the entire country.

“Forecasting and planning are very important in the energy sector. This is a long-term industry, and to build a plant takes years and years. So, we really need to plan. We really need to develop strong planning and forecasting mechanisms, and at the same time work together with the legislature to come up with policies which will support these plans,” Gatchalian said.