Aquino seeks Congress help to address power shortage

Natashya Gutierrez
Aquino seeks Congress help to address power shortage
President Benigno Aquino III says he will formally ask Congress to sign a joint resolution to allow the government to contract additional power supply to address the projected 2015 power deficit

MANILA, Philippines – President Benigno Aquino III announced he would ask Congress to sign a joint resolution allowing government to contract additional power supply as a means of addressing the expected power deficiency in 2015.

To be more efficient and impactful in our efforts, very soon, we will formally ask Congress for a joint resolution, that will authorize the national government to contract an additional generating capacity to address the 300-megawatt projected deficit, and, on top of that, to have sufficient regulating reserves equivalent to 4% of peak demand, for another 300 megawatts,” Aquino said on Thursday, September 11, at the launch of the Pagbilao 3 power plant project.

“The Department of Energy (DOE) will also continue to solicit participation for ILP (Interruptible Load Program) until next year. Let me assure our partners from the private sector: Government intervention will be focused solely on addressing the projected shortage. We have no plans of intervening to distort the market or complicate the situation even further.”

There is an expected shortage of about 300 megawatts next summer, that could lead to rotating brownouts for 20 days. Aquino said this deficiency could reach 1,000 megawatts. 

Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla explained to reporters that asking Congress to act does not mean the President is using emergency powers. (READ: Power emergency: what it means)

“It’s not necessarily emergency powers. Because if it’s an emergency, then it should’ve been declared when I recommended it. But you saw we took time because we wanted to validate everything,” he said. “So it’s more of an authority to contract rather than a totalitarian emergency power.”

He added, “We’re not after any other thing other than allow government to contract additional capacity on a short-term basis. That’s it.”

The law prohibits contracting for additional power, unless the President declares there is a power crisis. Petilla however was hesitant to call the impending power shortage a crisis, choosing instead to use the word “deficiency.”

Petilla estimated that contracting 300 megawatts will cost about $20 million or P8.8 billion per 100 megawatts, and said it is up to the Department of Finance to decide how it will be funded.

In July, Petilla endorsed what he said was the best and fastest way the government could address the expected 2015 shortage problem: for Aquino to declare a power emergency and invoke his powers under the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) of 2001.

He has since hesitated to use the word “emergency,” after critics slammed the administration as using the energy crisis as reason to increase his powers.

‘Keeping tabs’

The Pagbilao project was prompted by the Department of Energy (DOE)’s projections of a shortage of power supply in 2015. It will extend the capacity of the existing 2×382 megawatt Pagbilao Power Station, by adding a 420-megawatt unit.

Team Energy and Abotiz Power are working together on the project, but will be 100% owned, operated and maintained by Pagbilao Energy Corporation (PEC). The additional power that will be generated by the new project will be sold to customer like electric cooperatives and large industrial end users.

In his speech, Aquino said the demand for power continues to increase as the economy grows, adding the technology and gadget-filled lifestyle of Filipinos is also reason for the increase in demand. He said the Pagbilao 3 is a “strategic investment” that is “necessary to ensure a steady supply of power that FIlipinos need day in, day out.”

Aquino also gave assurances the government is “keeping tabs” of the energy situation, and said it “cannot be complacent.” He said the DOE has intensified coordination with consumers, stakeholders and other agencies to ensure the problem remains under control. – Rappler.com

 

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