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Don’t panic over Aquino emergency powers – Petilla

/ 03:35 PM November 18, 2014
ENERGY Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

ENERGY Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines – Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla on Tuesday said there is no need for the public to be alarmed over the resolution granting President Benigno Aquino III emergency powers, which was approved by a House of Representatives panel.

During the House energy committee hearing on Tuesday, Petilla said the DOE warns of at least four weeks of thin reserves during the dry season if there is no additional power capacity contracted under the emergency powers.

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Petilla also warned lawmakers about the worst case scenario if the power situation is marred by planned forced outages next year.

He said a maximum of 1,600 megawatts (MW) could be lost in the grid based on the actual power plant outages in 2014.

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“I’m not trying to alarm everybody. The worst case scenario won’t happen every day… During the summer, we also lose 1,200 to 1,300 MW of hydropower,” Petilla said.

The DOE submitted the reconciled figures with the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines accounting for the planned forced outages, a scenario Petilla called a “fact of life” in the power industry.

Petilla admitted, however, that its figures on the power shortage were only based on the actual power situation in 2013.

“We don’t know when forced outages can happen. We can only base it on what happened in 2013,” Petilla said.

The panel approved the resolution granting Aquino emergency powers despite objections from a militant group and lawmaker.

Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares said Congress couldn’t approve the resolution as the DOE failed to prove the imminent threat of the power shortage.

Aside from this, he said the Energy Regulatory Commission has yet to submit the report on the alleged collusion among power producers during last year’s Malampaya shutdown that led to a sharp increase of power rate.

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He expressed fears that some of these power plants would also be involved in the generation of power under the joint resolution.

“It is not clear if there is really an imminent shortage required under the law… Also, until we found accountable the companies behind the (power collusion), we can’t grant the emergency powers,” Colmenares said.

In a position paper, the People Opposed to unWarranted Electricity Rates (POWER) also said participants under the Interruptible Load Program (ILP), the preferred source of power to address the shortage, may profit under the emergency powers.

“The ILP is supposed to be a short-term measure that would allow the owners of generating sets to help avert a ‘power crisis.’ In a sense, it is an effort to solve the problem through bayanihan. However, the resolution’s provision allowing for ‘reasonable recovery’ of costs makes the program a profit-making enterprise that may unduly burden consumers,” the position paper read.

The ILP is seen as the solution to the anticipated power shortage supposedly due to the looming El Niño phenomenon, the maintenance shutdown of the Malampaya 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 who have the ability to produce their own electricity through generating sets should cut off or reduce consumption of their supplied electricity, particularly during peak periods of the day, and instead use their own generator sets.

Energy committee chairman Oriental Mindoro Representative Reynaldo Umali said the resolution would be tackled in the plenary on Monday, November 24. It is scheduled to be approved on third and final reading for November 26.

“I’m confident there will no longer be any brownouts next year,” Umali said of the resolution’s passage.

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