MANILA - Over a million households, mostly in remote areas, may experience rotating power interruptions this year as the National Power Corporation (NPC) struggles to pay its fuel bills.
Energy Secretary Rafael Lotilla said fuel expenses have risen significantly and may affect power supply in missionary areas or sites not connected to the grid.
At a virtual press briefing, officials of the Department of Energy and NPC said the forecast fuel requirements price for 2023 for Small Power Utilities Group (SPUG) is P11.4 billion, but the available budget is only P7.5 billion. This is because the fuel price assumption was only around P55/liter when the budget was created, but fuel prices have risen to around P74.34/liter or a 35 percent hike.
"Price of diesel in the international market has been on the uptick in the last week or so. And for the rest of the year, there are indications that unless of course there are economic developments in the global area that the prices of diesel will remain high," said Lotilla.
If no additional funds arrive, power outages will affect residents in missionary sites.
One of the scenarios is SPUG plants will reduce operating hours. Plants currently operating for 24 hours will be cut to 15 hours a day. Those
operating for 16 hours will be cut to 12 hours and those operating for less than 16 hours will be cut down to just 5 hours of power per day.
This will directly affect 450,000 households. An additional 835,000 households will also be affected due to delayed payments. Overall, 1.3 million households in islands and in off-grid areas will experience power outages.
NPC is now seeking funding and loans to prevent power outages. And since missionary electricity is subsidized by residents connected to the grid, all Filipinos may absorb the bill if funding does not come soon.
"Big issue is the funding deficit. There is fuel to be bought but yung pambili ang may problema... We have to be prepared to actually bear some of the costs," said NPC President Fernando Nani Roxas.
An additional 15 centavos/kWh is being proposed to the Energy Regulatory Commission.
"It will be our on-grid customers or consumers that will have to take up that burden... All of us will have to share the burden of addressing this," Lotilla added.
On the other hand, DOE officials are also continuing to promote other ways to address power issues like energy efficiency and pushing for renewable energy. The agency will implement its own ways to save energy like implementing work-from-home setup every Friday and proposing a much earlier call time for government agencies to avoid rush hour traffic.