Senate to OK special powers

Marvin Sy - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - The Senate is expected to approve this month a joint resolution granting President Aquino the authority to contract additional generating capacity to address a looming power crisis in the summer of 2015.

“We will work to finish this before the end of October so that the President would be given the power and the DOE (Department of Energy) could buy or rent the generating sets to provide the necessary power supply from March to July of next year,” said Drilon.

The Senate committee on energy, which is headed by Sen. Sergio Osmeña III, is working on the joint resolution.

Drilon earlier expressed reservation on the proposal, saying it would entail a lot of funds for the government.

He is now saying that the grant of emergency powers for the President would cover the shortfall of 300 megawatts in March and April. He said DOE estimates showed that the total shortfall could be as high as 800 MW.

Drilon said the Malaya geothermal plant in Rizal – which is expected to be operational next year – and big businesses that pledged to help out under the interruptible load program (ILP), would reduce the shortfall to 300 MW.

The ILP involves asking the private companies, particularly big commercial establishments such as malls, to operate their generator sets at certain periods so that the demand on distributors such as the Manila Electric Co. could be reduced.

However, Osmeña is not convinced that there is a need to purchase or lease generator sets as proposed by the DOE.

He added that these generator sets should be able to produce at least 2,000 MW.

Osmeña also noted that representatives of big businesses gave their commitment to the ILP.

He said Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla expects only

180 MW from the private sector under the ILP but members of the Makati Business Club assured him they could guarantee at least 400 MW.

Osmeña said he is not satisfied with 400 MW, and would push for 800 MW, which he said the existing generator sets in Luzon could provide.

He said the government should trust the private sector to fulfill their commitments under the ILP.

“Secretary Petilla has been saying ‘I don’t believe them.’ But there are certain times that you must take people’s word for it; that they won’t suck up a huge chunk of power from Meralco,” he said.

He said the demand for up to 400 MW during summer is natural, and would be covered by new power plants. With the uncertainty surrounding Malaya plant’s operation early next year, he said the total shortfall would be around 1,000 MW.

Osmeña said the ILP could cover the shortfall, adding paying the private firms is cheaper than bringing in new generation sets.

He said the “capacity fee” for bringing in new generator sets would be around P35 per kilowatt-hour, excluding the fuel requirements. He said it would also mean higher electricity bills.

P600-M subsidy

As this developed, three congressmen asked the executive branch to extend a P600-million subsidy to rehabilitate electric cooperatives whose facilities had been damaged by Typhoon Glenda.

“Typhoon Glenda… left 18 electric cooperatives in five regions with hundreds of millions in losses due to damage on substations, sub-transmission lines and distribution lines,” Reps. Rodel Batocabe of Ako Bicol, Reynaldo Umali of Oriental Mindoro and Michael Angelo Rivera of 1-CARE said.

The three congressmen are authors of a resolution urging the President to order the National Electrification Administration (NEA) to extend the subsidies to the affected electric cooperatives.

They said electric cooperatives in the Bicol region suffered the most damage, followed by those in Southern Luzon, Central Luzon and the provinces of Samar and Leyte.

“Electric cooperatives are designed not to earn profit so these cannot build up funds to respond to natural disasters such as typhoon and earthquakes. The operation of an electric cooperative severely damaged by a natural calamity puts its integrity to a challenge,” they said.

Sorsogon II Electric Cooperative suffered P122.8 million worth of damage, followed by Camarines Sur I Electric Cooperative, with P89.7 million.

In Southern Tagalog, the cooperatives that reported damaged facilities were those in Batangas, Quezon and Oriental Mindoro, and in Pampanga and Zambales in Central Luzon.

In Region 8, the Eastern Samar Electric Cooperative estimated damage to its assets at less than P1 million.

Sufficient supply

Meanwhile, National Grid Corp. of the Philippines spokesperson Cynthia Alabanza said the NGCP’s power reserve is sufficient to cover Luzon’s power needs.

She said the Sept. 26 to Oct. 2 outlook shows a 1,437 MW gross reserve.

The NGCP’s gross reserve for Luzon was pegged at 1,658 MW as of Sept. 28; 1,573 MW (Sept. 29); 1,469 MW (Sept. 30), and 1,407 MW as of Oct. 2.

Alabanza said the power outlook depends on actual power system conditions. “What also changes decisions particularly on the part of government is the condition of power generation plants like if one or two plants collapse or are undergoing repair,” she said.

To ensure reliable power supply, Redi Allan Remoroza, NGCP transmission planning department head, said the erection of towers and power line installation of the 118 kilometers 230-kilovolt (KV) Santiago-Tuguegarao Line 2 project are ongoing.

He also mentioned the 64-kilometer Tuguegarao-Magapit 230 KV Line, installation of a 100-megavolt ampere transformer in Tuguegarao City and the replacement of destroyed and rotten poles in Solana, Cagayan and Tabuk City in Kalinga. – With Jess Diaz, Artemio Dumlao

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