A local public policy think-tank is questioning whether the country’s power industry regulators have the guts to tell their former patron to moderate Aboitiz Power’s (AP) thirst for fossil fuel.
“With the conglomerate’s former executives now leading the highest posts in regulating the power sector, will they be able to take Aboitiz to task for its continuing expansion into coal technology despite a commitment to cleaner technologies?” asked Infrawatch convenor and former congressman Terry Ridon in a statement.
Ridon pointed out the Aboitiz group’s hypocrisy when it hyped its shift to clean energy while at the same time it jacked up its stake in a coal-fired power plant.
AP recently doubled to 70 percent its stake in STEAG State Power Inc. (SPI) which runs a 210-megawatt coal-fired power plant in Mindanao.
Ridon said this raised AP’s coal usage at 63 percent of its its total net sellable capacity, not counting the 13 percent share of diesel. (Under its “transforming energy” aspirations, AP is aiming to reduce the share of dirty fuel in its portfolio to 50 percent by 2030).
“In no uncertain terms, the conglomerate’s current power mix is not sustainable commitment the public seeks from the power sector,” said Ridon.
Ridon expressed fears that AP’s dirty fuel expansion will face little to no resistance with its regulatory capture.
Bilyonaryo Sabin Aboitiz, president and CEO of Aboitiz Equity Ventures, is currently head of the President’s Private Sector Advisory Council.
His former executives and subordinates are embedded in key government positions: former AP director Raphael M. Lotilla as Department of Energy (DoE) Secretary; former AP first vice president for regulatory affairs Dennis Edward Dela Serna as President of the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp. (PSALM); and former AP compliance officer Monalisa Dimalanta as Chairman of the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC).
“With the conglomerate operating both power generation and distribution businesses, will they be able to spot conflicts of interest and anti-competitive behavior?” Ridon said.
“The push for cleaner technologies should be the priority of government for upcoming power projects. But whether this will be more than lip service remains to be seen, for as long as a singular corporate interest is able to hobnob at the corridors of power and afforded high-level appointments to offices regulating their sector,” Ridon added.