P4P: Meralco bid delay not enough to assuage coal threat

       The Power for People Coalition (P4P), a group advocating clean energy and consumers rights, on Thursday heeded Meralco’s request to postpone its new Competitive Selection Process (CSP) as admission that the giant utility’s choice of fuel, coal, is incapable of both promoting energy security in the country and providing consumers with affordable electricity.

       Meralco appealed to DOE to allow it to move the call for bids for its new 1,800 megawatt (MW) power capacity requirement in light of the coronavirus situation to a yet to be determined later date, citing concerns on the volatility of fuel prices today.

      “We’re hearing from the mouths of Meralco officials themselves that the fuel sources they are eyeing for this new bid are extremely vulnerable to shock. The crisis we are going through is already exposing how unstable an economy that relies largely on coal and fossil fuels for its power is. It is concerning that Meralco’s response to the situation only stops at moving the bidding to a date when the fuels helpless against demand and price shocks are once again at their best, instead of making sure through its terms of reference that winning bidders are those able to weather shifting economic situations, like renewable energy,” said P4P Convenor Gerry Arances.

     The 1,800 MW requirement replaces Meralco’s earlier call for bids for a 1,200 MW power supply need, the first CSP for which was conducted as far back as the third quarter of 2019.

     “Meralco’s earlier CSP failed because the TOR they issued was shamelessly and obviously crafted to ensure that the proposed 1,200 MW coal power plant in Atimonan of its power arm, MGen, wins the bid. It seems Meralco wouldn’t stop pulling tricks until it finally lands a power supply agreement for this dirty energy project,” he noted.

     P4P coalition and affected communities in Atimonan have persistently opposed the proposed coal-fired power plant because of its costs to the economy, environment, and people’s health.

     “We’re not buying the narrative that their request for postponement is a bid to protect consumers. Even if the process is delayed, Meralco’s track record of force feeding coal into our power mix continues to threaten consumers with high electricity prices. They would again bear the burdens of an unstable power sector in future times of crisis like they are forced to do today,” said Arances.

     Arances urged Meralco to prove its concern for consumers by making its selection processes much friendlier to renewable energy providers.

     “Because it is imported, coal prices will always be erratic and dependent on supply and demand, and consumers will repeatedly have to pay for dirty, expensive electricity both through their wallets and their health. Renewable energy, on the other hand, is becoming even cheaper than coal and all other fossil fuels, has no emissions, and has stable prices because of how easy it is able to adapt to changing economic factors. Having renewable energy as our primary energy source is what a win for consumers would really look like,” Arances said.

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