DOE 'exploring' raps over Luzon brownouts

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 02 2021 03:19 PM | Updated as of Jun 02 2021 03:45 PM

DOE 'exploring' raps over Luzon brownouts 1
Linemen work on electric cables in Purok 2, Barangay Culiat Quezon City on Dec. 30, 2020. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA — The Department of Energy said on Wednesday it was "exploring" charges including economic sabotage over a shortage in power supply that caused brownouts this week. 

Power plants, except those harnessing hydropower, are banned from doing preventive maintenance from April to June, when the electricity demand is high, Energy Undersecretary Wimpy Fuentebella said. 

"Kung hindi kayo susunod sa mga polisiya ng Department of Energy, pinapaaral po namin kung isa itong krimen that is tantamount to economic sabotage," he said in a televised public briefing. 
 
(If you do not follow the policies if the Department of Energy, we are studying if this is a crime that is tantamount to economic sabotage.) 

"Our lead lawyers in the Department of Energy are exploring that, and we are in the process of gathering pieces of evidence," the official added, when asked if the DOE was eyeing charges against power players.

However, he said it was unlikely that power plants colluded to cause the insufficient supply. The government, he reasoned, set a fixed price on electricity. 

"Malabo iyong sabwatan dahil iyong presyo nga, andoon, controlled," he said. 

(Collusion is unlikely because the price is there, fixed.)

Fuentebella said the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines failed to tap enough contractors to ensure that electricity reserves would be sufficient in case power plants go offline, which the DOE ordered back in 2019. 
 
The "regulatory reserve" should be 4 percent of the power demand, said Fuentebella. 

On top of this, there should be a "contingency reserve" that is equal to the capacity of the largest power plant in the area. For Luzon, this figure is at around 600 megawatts, he said. 

"Nakontrata ba ‘yon lahat? Hindi," said the official. 

(Were all those contracted? No.)

NGCP has yet to reply to ABS-CBN News' request for comment.

"Ang gusto natin, compliance. Pero kung patuloy ang hindi pag-comply, wala tayong magagawa, kundi we have to impose the discipline that is necessary because at the end of the day, consumers are suffering," Fuetebella said. 

(We want compliance. But if noncompliance continues, we cannot do anything, but impose the discipline that is necessary because at the end of the day, consumers are suffering.) 

"We’re after compliance, and not penalties. But if you force our hand, we will pursue these cases," he added. 
 
The DOE on Monday said that besides the high heat index that pushed demand for power, maintenance work and unscheduled outages at key power plants in Luzon and low gas pressure from the Malampaya also contributed to power supply problems.

Video courtesy of PTV