DOE execs hit for ‘overstated’ power shortage figures
MANILA, Philippines—Energy officials got an earful from the House of Representatives over their supposed failure to reconcile their figures on the power shortage situation.
During the Joint Congressional Power Commission (JCPC) hearing on Wednesday, energy committee chair Oriental Mindoro Representative Reynaldo Umali noticed that according to the Department of Energy’s (DOE) new outlook, at least 120 megawatts (MW) were included as committed additional capacity under the Manila Electric Company (Meralco) in the Interruptible Load Program (ILP).
But according to Meralco, at least 169 MW are committed ILP capacity. Meanwhile JCPC data shows that least 623 MW are usable ILP capacity.
Also, according to the Retail Electricity Suppliers Association, an umbrella organization of electricity retailers, at least 348 MW were committed ILP capacity.
DOE Director Patrick Aquino said in their revised power outlook, the agency projects that Luzon will be under red alert status from March to July 2015. In their projections last month, Luzon will only experience shortfall in reserves, thus leading to brownouts, only on the two weeks of April.
Umali hit the energy officials for supposedly not doing their job even as the lower chamber is rushing to craft the House Joint Resolution granting President Benigno Aquino III emergency powers.
“Definitely your shortage is overstated. This will now be our problem if we keep on saying this and we send that signal to the public. That’s why we need to fix this. We have to agree that there has got to be a more rational way of looking at it,” Umali, a co-chair of the JCPC, said.
Umali said Congress will need clearer figures so they could present a better picture of the power situation to the President, who is seeking Congress’ nod for him to contract additional capacity to address the looming power shortage during the summer next year.
“We just have to be clear on these (numbers) because we are going to report to the President. It’s as if we did not talk. This is the reason for this meeting so we’ll understand each other clearly. Not a situation where you and Congress are presenting different figures,” Umali said.
The ILP is seen by the House energy committee as the preferential solution to the anticipated power shortage supposedly due to the looming El Niño phenomenon, the maintenance shutdown of the Malampaya power plant, increased or continuing outages of power plants, and the delay in commissioning of committed power projects.
Under the ILP, big industrial and commercial customers which have the ability to produce their own electricity through generating sets should cut off or reduce their supplied electricity, particularly during peak periods of the day, and instead use their own generator sets.
This is to give way for the other customers who may need the power than the commercial users. The businesses are also required to contribute their excess energy reserves.
But the program is only voluntary, and thus government cannot compel businesses to participate.
According to the lower chamber’s draft resolution on the President’s emergency powers, “additional generating capacity shall be preferentially sourced from the ILP, fast tracking of committed projects, and plants for interconnection.”
The provision and procurement of additional generation capacity will be available on or before March 1, 2015, the resolution said.
The draft resolution also cited an adoption and execution of energy efficiency and conservation measures as a “fallback mechanism.”
According to the resolution, private entities with self-generating facilities are encouraged to participate voluntarily in the ILP on or before December 2014 to stimulate additional generation capacities
Government is also expected to reimburse the business owners of these generators for fuel expenses and “reasonable recover for their use,” the resolution said, adding that the reimbursement will not be subject to value-added tax.
Those businesses which have not registered under the ILP may also be manually deloaded from the grid without compensation “to meet the exigencies of the power shortage,” the resolution added.
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