Bill extending lifeline rate until 2051 gets bicam nod

By Angelica Y. Yang

THE BICAMERAL Conference Committee has approved a measure that will extend the lifeline rate subsidy for poor power consumers for thirty more years, a party-list group said in a statement.

On Thursday, the Power Bloc party-list announced that House Bill (HB) 8145, which aimed to subsidize electricity costs for low-income consumers by extending lifeline rates until 2051, was “positively accepted and unanimously supported” by senators.

A lifeline rate is a subsidized rate for marginalized or low-income end-users who consume power below a threshold level as determined by the Energy Regulatory Commission. The cost will be passed on to non-lifeline consumers.

“Thirty years extension is feasible and will allow the energy sector to make strides in achieving secure and affordable electric power supply,” Power Bloc Rep. Sergio C. Dagooc was quoted as saying in a statement. Mr. Dagooc, who also represents the Association of Philippine Electric Cooperatives, is one of the principal authors of the bill.

Citing the Department of Energy (DoE), Power Bloc said that the continued provision of lifeline rates, which will be shouldered by non-lifeline consumers, has very minimal impact on electricity rates.”

The Senate and House of Representatives have yet to ratify the Bicameral Conference Committee report on this measure.

On Thursday, consumer group Laban Konsyumer, Inc. (LKI) President Victor A. Dimagiba said they previously proposed that non-lifeliners stop subsidizing lifeline consumers “since the Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001 (EPIRA) has long removed all forms of cross subsidy.” However, he said that “no one from Congress supported the proposal.”

“(The proposal would bring) about (a) minimum (of) 5 to 10 centavos savings per kWh (kilowatt hour) in the bills for the next 30 years at the current rate,” Mr. Dimagiba told BusinessWorld in a Viber interview.

Asked to comment on DoE’s statement that the imposition of lifeline rates will have a minimal impact on power rates, Mr. Dimagiba said that it was a “very myopic” view.

“You add the universal charges and the FIT (feed-in-tariff) allowance that consumers continue to absorb, and the conundrum of the Murang Kuryente Act, that will add up to almost 20 to 30 centavos per kWh,” he said.

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