To prevent summer brownouts, DoE to make power consumers subsidize the rich

Under the “Interruptible Load Program” or ILP, shopping malls and factories are set to use their diesel generators this summer so that they would not have to draw power from the grid. The problems is, power consumers would be billed for it.

By MARYA SALAMAT
Bulatlat.com

MANILA — Bayan Muna Reps. Neri Colmenares and Carlos Zarate today April 4 hit the Department of Energy’s (DOE) “Interruptible Load Program (ILP),” saying that electricity consumers are being made to subsidize mall owners through this because of the Energy Department’s lack of foresight.

“With the ILP, the Energy Department is asking consumers to pay for electricity they do not use. They want us poor consumers to subsidize billionaire mall owners when most of us can hardly make ends meet,” said Rep. Colmenares.

Under the ILP, shopping malls and factories are set to use their diesel generators this summer so that they would not have to draw power from the grid. But that is not a favour to ordinary consumers because the consumers themselves would be billed for this generator usage. This came up as the Department of Energy said six power plants have scheduled forced shutdowns during the summer season. The ILP is a way to avoid a shortage that could result in brownouts.

The ILP is a stop-gap measure that would help the DoE save face but it is the majority of the consumers who will ultimately pay, just to forestall power outages during summer. “This is tantamount to blackmailing consumers,” said Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares.

The senior deputy minority leader questioned the Department of Energy for its failure to devise more strategic solutions to usual summer energy shortages, solutions that would not automatically mean power rate hikes.

“Hasn’t the DOE learned its lesson?” Rep. Colmenares asked. “This could have been solved earlier in this administration if only it has a comprehensive energy plan for the country and if it had constructed more power plants from the start,” said Rep. Colmenares.

He added that the P137 billion ($3.1 billion) Malampaya funds should have been used to build more power plants, particularly the renewable energy types, instead of buying American junk coast guard cutters.

Another EPIRA-induced problem

Bayan Muna Rep. Zarate pointed to the repeal of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001 (EPIRA) as one solution toward making power planning more strategic and beneficial to majority of Filipinos. “It would be more logical for us to repeal EPIRA now and return the power industry to a fully regulated regime,” Rep. Zarate said.

Because of EPIRA, power consumers have been forced more and more to depend on profit-seeking power producers and distributors, as more power plants owned by the government are being privatized. Expansion and building of new power plants also became increasingly more under private corporations rather than the government. Rep. Zarate suggested putting a stop to further privatization of the remaining hydroelectric power plants and power barges and having their maintenance, rehabilitation and upgrading handled by the National Power Corporation (NAPOCOR).

Also, “The government should instead vigorously study the construction and development of other renewable sources of power so that we will not be at the stranglehold of the greedy power cartel,” ended Rep. Zarate. ()

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