DOE warned: Fix power outage issues
A Meralco contractor fixes an electric line at Barangay Addition Hills in Mandaluyong City on Tuesday, June 01, 2021.
The STAR/Michael Varcas, file

DOE warned: Fix power outage issues

Delon Porcalla, Paolo Romero (The Philippine Star) - June 21, 2021 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Energy (DOE) should immediately address the threats of power outages in the coming months or the problem will result in more suffering for the Filipino people now reeling from the high prices of basic commodities, a lawmaker warned yesterday.

“We are gravely worried that the prospect of red and yellow alerts over the Luzon grid in the weeks ahead might drive up the cost of electricity and put more upward pressure on food prices,” Makati City Rep. Luis Campos Jr. said.

The reported unstable power supply of Luzon, expected to last until August, may “stoke inflation and set back the country’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic,” which already resulted in a domestic recession.

Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM) prices soared to an average of P9.29 per kilowatt hour (kwh) when the Luzon grid was put on red alert from May 31 to June 2 and had two consecutive days of rotating brownouts in some areas, Campos said.

“The cost of P9.29 per kwh was 171 percent higher than the average WESM price of P3.42 per kwh from January to April,” he added.

He expressed concern that higher electricity rates – coupled with potential supply disruptions – could adversely affect several power-intensive industries, including food manufacturing and canning as well as cooking oil processing.

“The DOE should spare no effort in averting further red and yellow alerts over the grid,” Campos said. A yellow alert means that the grid has low power supply available, while a red alert indicates inadequate supply.

Last week, the DOE called for the deferment of scheduled maintenance work on large coal power plants to avoid more outages. “We’re surprised that the DOE is taking action only now to fix the problem,” he noted.

Campos said as early as mid-April, the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP) warned that Luzon could face power supply shortages until August due to base load power plants simultaneously undergoing prolonged maintenance shutdown.

Just like the Senate, the House of Representatives should also look into the rotational brownouts being experienced in Metro Manila and other parts of Luzon, Rep. Precious Hipolito-Castelo said.

“Brownouts are happening despite the assurance of the DOE during the hearing of the Joint Congressional Power Commission that it does not see any demand-driven energy shortage during the summer,”Castelo said.

The Quezon City congresswoman reiterated that sufficient electricity supply “is all the more important now that the country is continuously implementing the national rollout of COVID-19 vaccines, which require refrigeration at varying temperatures.”

“The country cannot afford the spoilage of these vaccines arising from lack of electricity, considering that the COVID-19 situation now calls for a more aggressive vaccination drive given the alarming surge in new coronavirus infection cases recently,” she said.

Young voters’ registration affected

The looming rolling brownouts in the coming weeks, especially in Luzon, are expected to obstruct the registration of young voters for the 2022 national and local elections, senators said.

Senators Sherwin Gatchalian and Francis Pangilinan, in separate statements, pressed the DOE to ensure stable power supply, cut red tape hampering the operations of power companies and stop passing the blame for the short supply of electricity.

Gatchalian, who chairs the Senate committee on energy, said there are “a lot of complications and problems” arising from the blackouts as the country is trying to speed up vaccinations against COVID-19 and preparing for the elections, including the online registration of new voters.

“(Voter) registration is now electronic, so what happens if you can’t charge your phone or laptops?” Gatchalian told dzBB.

He lamented that the DOE leadership has always been implementing short-term programs that do not ensure stable power supply in the long run.

The committee is expected to resume its inquiry on Tuesday into the rolling blackouts that are expected last until August or September.

The deadline for registration of voters is in September.

Pangilinan, for his part, called on the youth to register and vote in the 2022 elections, noting that population projections from the Philippine Statistics Authority and data from Commission on Elections showed that around 15 million eligible voters have not registered.

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