Power reserves enough for next 6 months – DOE

Richmond Mercurio - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — The country’s power reserves are sufficient for the next six months due to cool weather, but this may not be the case once temperatures begin to rise and demand goes up during the summer months, according to the Department of Energy (DOE).

During the organizational meeting of the Senate Committee on Energy, Energy Secretary Raphael Lotilla    expressed concern over the country’s power outlook for the summer months next year.

“Right now we have enough reserves for the next six months, the cooler months.  Though hopefully no major breakdowns of plants,” Lotilla said.

“But during the summer months, I have to tell you that I’m beginning to have concerns about that,” he said.

Lotilla, however, assured the public that the DOE would do its best to address unutilized capacity or stranded power.

He said there is a need to fix transmission constraints to address these stranded power.

“Thankfully right now, we are going into the cooler months. And my rule of thumb is for every one degree centigrade difference, it’s an additional or deduction of 100 megawatts. So as we go into the cooler months, our reserves also go higher,” he said.

Thin power reserves usually occur during the dry season when temperatures are higher and demand increases.

“On the red alerts and yellow alerts, it’s actually the price rather than supply that has been accounting for the alerts, because there’s a secondary price caps that the Energy Regulatory Commission imposed,” Lotilla said.

The Energy chief said the long-term solution is for the country to shift to hybrid systems and end its overdependence on petroleum and petroleum-based fuels.

“Because otherwise we will always experience the volatilities in prices,” he said.

Lotilla said investments must be made in solar and wind, and down the road, even newer technologies like ocean, thermal, hydrogen, and offshore wind.

“These are the things that we would need to invest in so that our people don’t have to depend on petroleum-based fuels,” he said.

Lotilla, however, said these shift, as well as solving issues of high electricity prices, cannot happen overnight.

“Because of the particular generation mix that we have, there is no, shall we call it, magic wand to change things overnight. But the hard work must start now,” Lotilla said.

“And I think the President’s vision is not for a promise for overnight changes, but that the structural changes, including in EPIRA, the missing portion on the reform of the electric cooperatives, the missing portions on strengthening processes and structures in the Energy Regulatory Commission, and in promoting competition, including how the competition Philippine Competition Commission can come in,” he said.

On the use of nuclear energy, Lotilla emphasized the need to have a regulatory and policy framework in place first.

“We’ve always taken the position that we should not ban technologies, but we should set standards. The Philippines has been the earliest supporter of the peaceful uses of nuclear power,” he said.

“That’s why the President said that if in putting the regulatory measures in place, we will have to think about the safety standards and that we will comply with all the strengthened requirements imposed by the International Atomic Energy Agency, especially after the Fukushima incident in Japan,” the energy chief said.

Lotilla said a regional approach with other ASEAN countries which are also planning to put up nuclear power plants, especially in modular mode, should also be explored.

“We can come together, develop standards together, train people together, and in case of emergencies, we can pull our resources together. Down to the disposal of the nuclear waste, which is many decades down the line but we have to take a look at the full lifecycle of the technology,” he said.

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