Consumer groups file complaint alleging negligence against Energy Secretary

Energy Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi — PHILSTAR

Six electricity consumers on Friday filed a complaint with the Ombudsman against Department of Energy (DoE) Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi, alleging that the government official has neglected his duties.

“In his five years in office, Respondent Cusi has not issued a single policy to curb the yearly unplanned outages that have caused red or yellow alerts since 2016,” a copy of the complaint obtained by BusinessWorld read.

The complainants are Gerry C. Arances, Marie Marguerite M. Lopez, Bibiano Rivera, Jr., Flora A. Santos, Leodigario de Guzman, and Rodne R. Galicha.

The complainants explained that the DoE “has done nothing” to address the problem since it did not issue any policies which would incentivize generation companies to conduct regular maintenance of their plants nor penalize erring firms for inefficiencies.

Early last month, the Luzon grid was placed under a series of yellow and red alerts which caused rotating “brownouts” in portions of the island amid forced plant outages, thinning reserves, and higher temperatures.

Yellow alerts are issued by the grid operator when reserves fall below ideal levels. These are further downgraded into red alerts when the supply-demand balance worsens.

The complainants also said that the DoE official failed to issue policies to ensure the reliability, quality, and affordability of electricity, including rulings related to penalizing new coal plants that were “already operating inefficiently.” They cited figures showing that up to 1.69 gigawatts of power was shaved off from the Luzon grid from May 31 to June 3 due to coal facilities.

The complainants also claimed that Mr. Cusi was “more focused on politicking rather than the energy concerns of the country.”

“Instead of addressing the problems faced by the energy sector, daily news has been filled with Respondent Cusi bickering with partymates in PDP-Laban (Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan) over leadership and candidates for the 2022 elections. It is clear that Respondent Cusi is more preoccupied with politicking while electricity consumers suffer from power outages and pay for power rate spikes,” they said.

The complainants asked the ombudsman to suspend Mr. Cusi for six months, pending investigation.

“For five years, we tried to believe the message of change and gave Secretary Cusi the chance to stop the brownouts and rate hikes. For five years, nothing happened. Then we see that he can work quickly and effectively, but only when it comes to politicking and not his actual job,” Mr. Arances, who is one of the six complainants and is a Convenor of the Power for People Coalition, separately said in an e-mailed statement.

“We see here clear proof that he is not doing his job and must therefore be held accountable to the people who pay his salary,” he added.

In a statement issued on Viber, the DoE said that it has been coming up with policies to address the country’s power situation, under the helm of Mr. Cusi.

These include its 2018 rules on the competitive selection process for power procurement, and “landmark laws” such as the Energy Virtual One-Stop Shop Law, and Energy Efficiency and Conservation Act.

“The DOE (also) completed the mechanisms under the Renewable Energy Act of 2008… including the participation of electricity consumers in renewable energy (RE) development… These include the Renewable Portfolio Standards policy, Green Energy Option Program policy, and Enhanced Net-Metering System, among others, which are geared towards achieving a 35% RE share by year 2030,” it said. — Angelica Y. Yang