Appeal to Luzon: Conserve energy

This will help power up typhoon-stricken areas in the Visayas, says Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla

CONSERVE ENERGY. The Department of Energy asks Luzon power consumers to conserve energy to power up typhoon stricken Visayas.Philippe Lopez/AFP photo

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Energy (DOE) has made an appeal to Luzon consumers to conserve energy starting December 9, because this will help power up typhoon-stricken areas in the Visayas.

In a press conference on Wednesday, November 20, Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla said provinces in the Visayas said Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) damaged transmission lines and the 650-megawatt (MW) Unified Leyte Geothermal Power Plant (ULGPP), which supplies power to distribution utilities in the island.

The National Grid Corporation of the Philippines has said that it will take 5-6 weeks to restore power in badly affected areas as transmission lines that connect the Luzon and Visayas grids have been badly damaged.

The Energy Development Corporation (EDC) also disclosed that its geothermal plant, which supplies energy to the regions in Visayas, remains inoperable after the typhoon damaged it.

On December 9, however, a portion of the high-powered transmission line connecting Luzon and the Visayas is expected to be restored, Petilla said.

If Luzon power consumers start conserving by then, he said, this will create excess power supply that can be supplied to the Visayas. 

The energy secretary particularly asked Luzon customers to minimize the use of Christmas lights to conserve more energy.

“I appeal to Luzon, if people can save on their power consumption. Right now, the line [from Luzon to Visayas] can only take in 150-180 MW  by December 9, but by the time the rehab of HVDC (high voltage direct current) is finished by December 31, we are hoping that it can handle 440MW,” added Petilla,

This will allow Luzon to supply more power to the Visayas as power supply since the regions will still be short of 100 megawatts even if the geothermal plant resumes  full operations.

The EDC has yet to disclose when the geothermal plant can resume full operations, Petilla said.

Passing cost on to consumers?

Petilla said that damage of Yolanda on transmission lines and facilities is close to P2 billion. Of this, P1.1 billion was incurred by the NGCP and around P800 million on damage suffered by electric cooperatives.

NGCP likely has 70% of the damage covered by insurance, the secretary noted.

The 30% is likely to be passed on to consumers by NGCP, a situation which the DOE does not want to happen.

“I think NGCP’s insurance is 70:30, which means 70% of the cost it needs to recoup will be shouldered by them and the 30% would have to be passed on. But my goal is zero passed-on [cost],” said Petilla.

Petilla explained that his department has been contemplating on using the Malampaya funds to finance the restoration of power facilities due to Yolanda instead of passing on the cost to consumers.

This suggestion, however, was met with hesitation by Malacañang.

“I have been discussing this with the chief legal adviser and he said that the Supreme Court  has issued a statement saying Malamapaya fund can be used only for the development and exploration of energy resources. Transmission and distribution lines, he said, are not really energy resources,” said Petilla. (READ: SC junks PDAF as unconstitutional)

The chief legal adviser and lawyers from the DOE and the National Electrification Administration (NEA) are set to discuss whether the Malampaya fund can be tapped to finance the restoration of damaged facilities.

“We are not giving up yet. We will exhaust all efforts to try to define that transmission and distribution lines are essential part of power supply. However, if we cannot tap the Malampaya fund, then the cost will be passed on to consumers,” explained Petilla.

The NEA so far has shelled out a total of P300 million to ailing electric cooperatives (ECs) – P150 million to an electric cooperative in Leyte and  another P150 million to an EC in Iloilo for the restoration of damaged electric facilities.

The NEA can shoulder the P800 million cost of damage to ECs due to Typhoon Yolanda according to Petilla, but these funds should be replenished soon. – 

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