Guiding the Philippine energy sector into a brighter future

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By Bjorn Biel M. Beltran, Special Features Writer

Since the establishment of the Independent Electricity Market Operator of the Philippines (IEMOP) four years ago, the Philippine energy sector has faced a number of challenges, culminating in the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic. But with every crisis comes opportunity, and IEMOP kept true to its commitment in facilitating a fair and adaptive environment for all stakeholders in the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM).

“Being a service organization that facilitates the 24×7 trading of electricity, the pandemic, as with any other organization, has been exceptionally challenging,” IEMOP told BusinessWorld. “In line with our mission to operate an efficient, competitive, and transparent electricity market, IEMOP continued to administer the 24×7 operations of the WESM by executing its business continuity procedures. With the easing of government restrictions and with full compliance to health protocols and standards, we have also fully resumed our operations back in our offices this year.”

“These challenges have made IEMOP more resilient which propelled our organization to continue moving forward. The pandemic instilled in our mindset that we should always be resilient and adaptable to changes,” the organization added.

The challenges brought about by COVID-19 only reinforced and accelerated plans that were in place to keep up with global developments in the energy sector. The highly anticipated Enhanced WESM Design and Operations (EWDO) also commenced on June 26, 2021 that brought efficiency gains within the market — thereby making it at par with the advanced electricity markets of other jurisdictions.

At the same time, IEMOP also launched the WESM Central Scheduling in Mindanao, a crucial stepping stone to the eventual launching of WESM in the said region.

Other responses to the ever-changing energy landscape included the Green Energy Option Program (GEOP), which empowers electricity end-users to source their electricity supply from Renewable Energy resources. Finally, the threshold to participate in the Retail Competition and Open Access was also lowered to 500kW and the 7-working day processing of retail customer switching was implemented.

“Our performance as Market Operator has been constantly monitored by the Department of Energy through the Market Operator Performance Standards (MOPS), wherein we have maintained a Very Satisfactory Rating for the past four years,” IEMOP said, adding that IEMOP has also been certified by TÜV SÜD as compliant to ISO 9001:2015 (quality management) and ISO 27001 (Information Security management) and has maintained its certification for the past four years.

“As the Central registration Body for the Retail Competition and Open Access (RCOA) and the GEOP, more and more end-users are reaping the benefits of competition in the retail sector as IEMOP continues to facilitate the switch of consumers to suppliers that offer more competitive rates, promotes energy sustainability, and provides value-adding services.”

Providing unrelenting service

to the Filipino people

During the throes of the pandemic, IEMOP has proven its commitment to its mission of creating a fair, competitive, and reliable market for the trading of electricity throughout the Philippines.

“The pandemic has changed the way we operate and do business in the electricity market — compelling us to change some old habits and adopt new ones. Even with the return to almost normalcy in the operations, we strive to deliver quality service to our market participants and stakeholders,” the organization said.

For example, IEMOP increased its presence and broaden mileage both online and offline through conduct of coordination meetings, Kumustahan (focus group discussions), and stakeholder events in various platforms. The digitalization initiatives improved the accessibility and availability of market data on the website and social media platforms, where IEMOP also posts daily WESM updates and information that can be easily accessed by the participants as well as that of the general public. Further, they streamlined the process in its Central Ticketing System to ensure that each query sent within the system is responded to.

“We are constantly working to enhance the market systems in line with the policy issuances of the Department of Energy (DoE) and the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) and to deliver our services to our stakeholders in the most cost-efficient way,” IEMOP said.

Currently, IEMOP is planning to launch the Retail Aggregation program by the end of this year, which will allow end-users in a contiguous area to aggregate their demand and participate as a contestable customer. This program will allow more end-users to benefit from retail competition by allowing them to select the supplier of electricity with the best offer and services.

IEMOP is also actively involved in the government’s Energy Virtual One Stop Shop (EVOSS) project. Once this commences, investors in the energy sector will be provided with a portal where they can submit and process all required data and information for their registration, or applications for permits and/or certifications.

As the global energy landscape continues to develop and change, especially in the sustainability aspects, IEMOP remains committed to seek opportunities for growth.

“More and more countries in recent years are pushing for energy sustainability by promoting utilization of indigenous renewable energy resources. The Russia-Ukraine war underscores that our heavy reliance on imported fossil fuels has a huge impact on electricity costs especially during global conflicts,” IEMOP said.

“In the WESM, we have seen a significant uptrend in electricity market prices in the recent months due to the high cost of coal, oil, and natural gas. Given this, the government’s thrust to accelerate renewable energy utilization through the different Renewable Energy Programs as well as the development and exploration of indigenous sources of energy would be vital in ensuring a cleaner and a more secure energy in the future. Another opportunity for growth is to implement other market mechanisms to attract more investments in the Philippines such as the introduction of financial instruments through derivatives or the integration of a capacity market which would help mitigate investment risks.”

Future plans also include the integration of Reserve Market into the WESM to promote security of supply and ensure the reliable and safe delivery of power from generators to customers; the lowering of threshold to participate in the RCOA; and expanding the WESM into Mindanao.

“As we welcome another year, we would like to thank the DoE, the ERC, and all the industry stakeholders, who made our four years of WESM operations meaningful and successful. Rest assured that the men and women of IEMOP will continue to provide world-class services that are responsive to the changing needs of the country for the benefit of all Filipino consumers,” IEMOP said.