Senate OKs Aquino’s ‘special powers’

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As the summer months set in, the Senate approves on final reading the joint resolution allowing the President to address power shortage

MANILA, Philippines – Just in time for summer – the dreaded months for the anticipated power shortage – the Senate finally approved on third and final reading a joint resolution allowing President Benigno Aquino III to address potential power shortage during this period.

The measure would authorize the President to address the projected imbalance of power supply and demand in the Luzon grid, particularly in the months of April and May this year, said Senator Sergio Osmeña III, chair of the committee on energy and the sponsor of Senate Joint Resolution 12.

“If we did not act, then it would have been a great inconvenience and grave disservice to our citizens, especially ordinary Filipinos who will have to endure the summer season without electricity,” said Senate President Franklin M. Drilon, author of the resolution.

The President though would not be given a blanket authority under the resolution. It also does not provide exemptions from existing laws such as the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act, Osmeña clarified.

In December 2014, the House of Representatives passed on third and final reading the joint resolution granting special powers to Aquino that are meant to address the projected shortfall in energy reserves in Luzon in summer this year.

The Senate and House panels are set to meet Tuesday morning, March 3, to reconcile their versions of the resolution. 

Cheaper solution

While the average electricity demand was projected at 8,700 megawatts (MW), the highest demand of power on the hottest day and hour in April and May would peak at 9,000 MW, Osmeña said.

“Having 9,000 MW guarantees a brownout since a certain number of power plants break down while some go on scheduled maintenance because no power plant could operate continuously the entire year,” he explained.

Thus, the resolution proposed “a more efficient way to solve the power crisis in a much cheaper way” than what the executive department earlier recommended, Osmeña said.

“The resolution is not mandatory and would enable productions from hydro and gas plants to be tweaked,” Osmeña said.

The House version of the bill included the suspension of pertinent laws, rules, and regulation and made it mandatory for self-generating facilities to participate in ILP, a provision not found in the Senate version.

Osmeña said the adoption of the Interruptible Load Program (ILP) would cost consumers P7 ($0.16) to P8 ($0.18) per kilowatt hour (kWh) versus the P35 ($0.79) kWh under DOE’s proposal to lease 300 MW in generator sets at a cost of P6 billion ($136.05 million) for two years or P10 million ($226,757.38) per MW.

Luzon will have over 1,000 megawatts (MW) of additional capacity over the summer this year to address the looming power shortage, according to the latest data from the Depart of Energy (DOE). Of that total, 739.58 MW will come from the ILP of the DOE.

ILP works by calling on business customers with loads of at least 1 megawatt (MW) to run their own generator sets, if needed, instead of drawing power from the grid.

In December last year, Osmeña said Aquino is being misled over the real issues surrounding the dreaded power shortage. The senator even argued that the Luzon grid would have 1,600 megawatts (MW) during the anticipated period, based on that period’s pledges for ILP.

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