MANILA, Philippines - President Aquino directed the Department of Energy (DOE) to consult various stakeholders and the public on the proposed emergency powers and other measures to make sure that the country will have adequate energy supply in 2015.
In a press briefing yesterday, presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said the use of emergency powers was only one of the options mentioned in the State of the Nation Address’ technical report, but Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla was still meeting with concerned officials on the matter.
“The industry leaders have voiced an interest to meet with Secretary Petilla. As soon as he gets to speak to the stakeholders and the Energy Regulatory Commission, as well as the Joint Congressional (Power Commission), he will let you know,” Lacierda said.
Aquino directed Petilla to consult with all important stakeholders, including the ERC, the JCPC, industry players and civil society organizations to find ways to ensure steady supply of power.
The President also mentioned the National Economic and Development Authority board’s approval of the Kaliwa Dam project in Quezon, fixing of the Angat Dam and improving services in different water districts in the country.
“Secretary Petilla presented a slew of options for the President. The President believes that let’s talk to the people first. Let’s see how we address the situation,” Lacierda said.
“You’ve got increased economic activity. We need to increase our base load capacity. So Secretary Petilla has been going through that process and these are the recommendations that he has provided to the President,” he said.
Petilla said the President might have to declare an emergency in the power sector to avert a shortage of electricity in the summer of 2015.
Petilla has met with power generators, the Philippine Independent Power Producers Association to ask if they could do something to plug the expected 400- to 500-megawatt deficit but got no commitment from them.
If the President declares an emergency and Congress grants him emergency powers, Petilla said he would like to set conditions on the use of electricity from rented generator sets or bunker-run facilities.
First, the contract for rent should only be for two years if supplier allows, or at most five years.
Second, the power from these generators can only be utilized during yellow alert at the spot market.
According to Petilla, he sees no spike in power rates since prices during summer months usually are high anyway due to limited supply.
Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Neri Colmenares expressed doubt yesterday on the statement of Petilla that the country faces a looming electricity shortage.
Colmenares said DOE’s own data in 2013 showed that installed capacity for the Luzon grid was 12,790 megawatts, while dependable capacity was 11,469 MW.
He said the peak demand for the grid was 8,700 MW (recorded in the summer months) with the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) accounting for 6,121 MW.
“So if you deduct dependable capacity from peak demand, there should have been reserves of 2,700 MW. This is more than the 400-megawatt deficit that Secretary Petilla claims. Based on the DOE figures, even in a tight supply condition, there should be more than enough supply,” Colmenares said.
He said DOE’s own data on power supply and demand showed that President Aquino does not need emergency powers to pave the way for the purchase of modular generators.
He urged Petilla to stop crying wolf.
Petilla has asked the President to seek emergency powers from Congress for the procurement of generators that would increase next year’s supply.
The DOE chief warned that rotating blackouts would soon be experienced if supply were not augmented.
Petilla even proposed the purchase of generators since constructing power plants would take three to five years to become operational.
“Now, is DOE’s forecasting and reference on plant capacities still accurate? Is it really supply that is a problem or there are other factors that prevent some capacities from being dispatched, like the collusion among power industry players that was exposed last year?” Colmenares asked.
He recalled that the ERC has invalidated the November-December rates in the open market after concluding that these were “not rational, reasonable and competitive.”
He said such finding prompted Meralco to drastically reduce its rate increase petition from P4.15-per-kilowatt hour to about 45 centavos.
However, despite such finding, Colmenares said the ERC has not punished any power producer or distributor.
Meanwhile, the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) said the presidential order for DOE to set up a transparent consultation to solve the alleged looming power crisis has not been started.
Louie Corral, TUCP executive director, said Petilla has not begun the consultation that the President vowed to conduct during his SONA last week.
“Power policy is de facto being set by the independent power generation sector and Meralco. They are now taking advantage of the absolute lack of leadership of Petilla as one group is peddling very expensive solar, another trying to lease power barges to the government and Meralco is shuffling around maintenance schedules to prevent the crisis,” he said.
TUCP called on Aquino to convene a multi-agency, multi-sectoral committee to draw up a consensus on the policy on power security and competitive rates.
“Only the President can restore investor and consumer confidence,” he said.
Corral said the power crisis is not just due to a deficit in power generation but to the unreasonable power rates that are among the highest in the world.
A multi-sectoral consensus, TUCP said, is key if the people will be made to sacrifice during the crisis. “We gently remind the DOE secretary that it will be the Filipino taxpayer and the Filipino consumer who will end up footing the bill.” – With Jess Diaz, Mayen Jaymalin, Edith Regalado, Artemio Dumlao