Noy to tackle power woes at today’s summit

Aurea Calica - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - President Aquino will discuss the country’s energy concerns at a power summit today, even as Malacañang assured the public of transparency in the allocation of funds to address a looming power crisis. 

Energy Smart Philippines (ESP) 2014, a two-day conference and exhibition promoting energy efficiency, renewable energy and clean technology, was organized by the European Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines and the World Bank’s International Finance Corp.

“In considering our country’s recent and projected trajectories of growth, the administration is focused on exploring all available energy options for increased efficiency and sustainability,” presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said yesterday.

Lacierda said Aquino, in exploring energy options, “demonstrates this administration’s focus goes beyond the present and extends to the future.”

ESP 2014 will hold various events, including an energy efficiency forum, now on its fifth year of bringing together top energy efficiency professionals, to discuss topics on energy efficient technologies and policies to improve energy security and increase savings.

A renewable energy forum and solar summit are also part of the conference. There will also be sub-sectoral summits on hydropower, wind power and biomass.

Lacierda also noted that Congress, in exploring all possible options to address the possible power shortage in 2015, would ensure transparency in the use of funds since the Joint Congressional Power Commission (JCPC) will have oversight function.

Before he left for a trip to Europe on Sept. 12, the President asked Congress to grant him emergency powers to enable the government to contract additional generating capacity to avert a looming crisis next year. 

Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla said a power shortage of 600 to 800 megawatts (MW) is projected to affect Luzon from March until late June next year.

The government is seen to spend some P6 billion, equivalent to P1 billion per 100MW, to generate 300 MW of additional capacity for the Luzon grid, or P12 billion for a minimum contract period of two years.

The Department of Energy (DOE) is negotiating with companies to see if it’s possible for the government to lease the generator sets for a year or less to lower costs, Petilla said.

He said the government is willing to shoulder the lease payment, but consumers would have to bear the cost of running the generator sets.

Vulnerable to corruption

The plan to lease or buy power generators from foreign suppliers is “vulnerable to corruption,” according to House Deputy Minority Leader Arnel Ty.

“Billions of pesos of generators and full supplies will be up for grabs. These will be acquired under emergency conditions. Thus, all existing policies and rules meant to ensure the integrity and fairness of the procurement process may be set aside,” he said.

Ty also expressed doubt on the need for special authority for the President to enter into contracts with foreign generator suppliers.

“The standby generators owned by large private enterprises and registered with the Energy Regulatory Commission are capable of producing an aggregate of 1,800 to 2,000 MW of electricity, which is more than sufficient to cover the expected 600-MW deficit in the summer months of next year,” he said.

“Even without emergency powers, the government is in a position to harness and deploy these privately held standby generators, while providing fair cost reimbursement to their owners,” he said.

Sufficient supply

Isabela Rep. Rodolfo Albano lll also questioned the need for emergency powers, saying one official report he has seen shows there is sufficient electricity supply next year, instead of a shortage.

“Supply will be sufficient even for the summer months of March to June, the four-month period Secretary Petilla is projecting a shortage. So where is the shortage that would justify emergency powers? Unless Secretary Petilla has different data,” he said, citing a report submitted by the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP) to the House committee on energy.

He said the lack of justification for the requested special contracting authority for Aquino is what is giving House members and even senators second thought in approving such request.

The NGCP report, a copy of which was obtained by The STAR, shows that available power for Luzon for next year would range from 8,839 MW in January to 10,946 MW in December.

The forecast peak demand would be from 7,760 MW in January to 8,410 MW next December.

There would be “system gross reserve” ranging from 666 MW in May, which is the lowest, to 2,764 MW in December, the highest.

Reserve in March, April and June is forecast at 717, 766 and 997 MW, respectively.

There is no showing in the report of a shortfall for any month. The report already took into consideration the effects of the extended El Niño dry season phenomenon and forced outages of power plants scheduled to go on maintenance shutdown.

Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali, House energy committee chairman, has urged Petilla and NGCP “to reconcile their figures.”    

Police powers

The government can exercise its police powers to compel industries and companies with excess electricity to contribute to the grid and avert the looming power shortage this summer, Umali said.

He said they are looking at tweaking the Interruptible Load Program (ILP) in drafting the joint resolution allowing the government to establish additional generating capacity.

“This is partly an oversight matter where we want the government to move. If the problem – as Secretary Petilla claims is lack of authority (to implement ILP), then we’ll give him compulsive authority (in the resolution). Because the government has police powers,” Umali told The STAR. –With Jess Diaz, Paolo Romero, Perseus Echeminada, Rhodina Villanueva, Ding Cervantes









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