(PN file photo)

The National Power Corporation (NAPOCOR) presented in a public hearing on Thursday that the proposed increase for their subsidized approved generation rate (SAGR) was due to several factors, which included a hike in fuel prices used by their diesel power plants.

A public hearing for NAPOCOR’s proposal was held at the Palawan Electric Cooperative (PALECO) gym on April 11, as an opportunity for Palaweños to hear the rationale behind the increase of their power rates.

The proposed increase, pending review and approval from the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC), would lead to an additional P 1.208 per kilowatt hour in residential connections and 2.6588 kW/H in commercial and industrial connections.

The increased rate on NAPOCOR’s services would raise the SAGR on all PALECO bills from 7.3900 per kilowatt hour to 8.5982 (residential) and 10.0488 (commercial). Although NAPOCOR serviced only those off-grid areas, the rate will apply to all member-consumer owners (MCOs) who pay through PALECO, as it was the only electric distributor in the province.

NAPOCOR Manager for the Revenue Management Department, Ma. Annabel Versoza, stated that the increase will be added to PALECO’s total Universal Charge for Missionary Electrification (UCME), which included the SAGRs from the main grid’s three power suppliers and three qualified third-party (QTP) service providers.

Versoza noted that the high power rates in Palawan was not solely due to NAPOCOR’s proposed one-peso increase. “Napakita kanina na 27% lang ang share ng NAPOCOR sa UCME ng Palawan. Kung gusto niyong bumaba yung UCME ninyo, ang mga supplier niyo ang ipa-hybridize ninyo at hindi si NAPOCOR,” she said.

“Sa side ni NAPOCOR, kasama din sa plano ang hybridize. Kaya lang, hindi kami pwede maglagay ng renewable energy sa mga temporary areas na nagse-serbisyo kami, kasi doon hindi aabot ng 20 years at di kami makakarecover ng expenses because RE is very capital-intensive,” Versoza added. 

NAPOCOR’s last SAGR in Palawan amounted to P 5.6404, and has not changed since 2005. NAPOCOR managed eight diesel power plants in Palawan. These off-grid areas located in El Nido, San Vicente, Rizal, Cuyo, Araceli, Balabac, Cagayancillo, and Agutaya.

Versoza reiterated that as mandated by law, NAPOCOR will continue to provide their electrification services until the electrical distribution side had contracts with new power producers (NPP).

“Directed kami ni Department of Energy na by CY 2023, 30% of our supply must be RE. There is also an acceleration program right now that our president is doing, inviting private sectors to provide doon sa areas na nagsusupply kami ng RE at an SAGR price, so there will be no UCME,” she said.

“Uulitin lang namin, sa Palawan hindi si NAPOCOR ang nagsu-supply. Kayo po ang nagkuha ng supplier niyo through the [competitive selection process]. We are encouraging them actually pero wala naman kaming PSA sa kanila, kayo po ang may hawak doon sa hybridization dito para mabawasan ang UCME sa inyong area.

Out of all the private power providers currently servicing the province, only DMCI Power Corp.’s coal plan in Narra and Sabang Renewable Energy Corporation (which uses both diesel and solar power) used non-diesel fuel sources of energy.

PALECO has already secured RE contracts with SIPCOR and Brooke’s Point Power Generation Incorporated, with both plants currently undergoing construction.

As of December 2023, NAPOCOR has slated 19 additional electrification projects for Palawan, which included small power utility group (SPUG) power plants/barges, SPUG transmission lines, NPPs and QTPs on off-grid island locations