House rules out electricity crisis

‘Only thinning of reserves for 2 weeks in summer’

THE House of Representatives on Monday rebuffed President Benigno Aquino III’s request for the authority to negotiate supply contracts with power producers to deal with a projected shortage of electricity next summer.

At a hearing Monday, the House committee on energy also learned that the projected shortage of 300 megawatts to 1,200 MW that Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla warned about was merely a thinning of the reserves for two weeks in summer.

The panel, headed by Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali, said it was more inclined to give the President special powers to implement the Interruptible Load Program (ILP), which encourages large private power consumers to use their own generators when supply is low.

“We hope to approve the joint resolution in the House before December 1... We will still approve [the President’s request for emergency powers], but the provision regarding the rental of generator sets will no longer be there,” Umali told reporters at the sidelines of the committee hearing.

Earlier, the House set Oct. 29 as the deadline to pass the joint resolution.

As of Monday, Umali said the private sector has committed 847 MW under the ILP, with a usable capacity of 593 MW.

The ILP was first conceived for the power shortage in Mindanao and Petilla suggested in January that it be employed in Luzon.

Under the ILP, customers with large power loads such as commercial establishments will be asked to operate their own generator when the power grid cannot meet power demand and the generator owner will be reimbursed later.

Some of the companies that have expressed willingness to participate in the program are the Sy-owned SM group which can unburden the power grid of some 56MW in demand and Robinsons Land with its 22MW, Ayala Land 8MW, Shangri-La 7MW, Waltermart 6MW, and Ortigas and Megaworld, 4MW each.

Petilla, who was absent during the hearing, was represented by Energy officials.

During the hearing, militant group, People Opposed to unWarranted Electricity Rates (POWER), welcomed the decision of the committee to postpone the approval of the House joint resolution granting emergency powers to the President as it debunked the claim of Petilla and Malacanang on the looming power crisis.

POWER convenor and former Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Teddy Casino said that the Energy Department itself admitted that the so-called shortage is actually just a thinning of the reserves during two weeks of summer next year.

He said there is no need for drastic emergency powers to address this situation.

Casino said what was apparent is that Petilla and the DOE were imagining widespread outages.

“This is a ridiculous assumption to make, especially since they are proposing a solution that would cost taxpayers P6 billion to P10 billion,” Casino said.

“The doomsday scenario painted by Petilla is clearly unwarranted and is being stretched to justify the use of billions of taxpayers money to address a situation that is not supported by reality,” he added.

For the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP), this power shortage will only translate to one hour rotating brownouts on peak hours or from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and only once a week.

In the same hearing, the Energy Department admitted that there was no need to contract additional generating capacity of 300 megawatts, which would cost P6 billion.

Petilla had earlier said that about 300 to 500 megawatts would be the projected power shortfall that has to be addressed by the government by next year to avert a power crisis. But later on, he said it was going to be 600 to 800 megawatts due to the thinning hydropower capacity and the expected high power demand in summer of next year.

This was again raised to 800 MW to 1,200 MW, if the El Niño dry spell materialized.

But Casino slammed Petilla and the Palace for trying to scare not only the policymakers but also Filipino consumers over the dreaded power crisis.

Energy officials during the hearing presented data showing that the country would only experience a 31MW shortage in 2015.

The Energy Department data also showed that the shortage would only occur during the first two weeks of April 2015 and not the entire summer season as earlier suggested by Petilla.

Energy Planning Executive Director Irma Exconde said the problem is needed to address only the required regulating net reserve of about 647 megawatts.

Petilla had earlier warned that five-day rotating brownouts lasting three hours may occur in Luzon next summer if Congress does not grant Aquino’s request for emergency powers.

NGCP, on the other hand, said it sees no imminent threat of a power shortage next year.

It added that the 31 megawatt power shortage in 2015 would translate to only one-hour rotating brownouts on peak hours or from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and only once a week.

Energy Underscretary Raul Aguilos said the ILP could solve the protracted power shortfall in Luzon next year provided that the private sector can commit to generating 700 MW.

Petilla on Monday insisted that it was crucial to maintain the reserves and said the power shortage was not a hoax, but based on historical data.

The Palace, on the other hand, would wait to see the House draft resolution and also see what the Senate would do, the President’s spokesman Herminio Coloma Jr. said.

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