‘Not emergency power, but brain power and truth, to address thinning reserves’

“While we should look for solutions if there is an impending crisis, we should guard against short term knee jerk solutions that make energy costly.” – Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares

By MARYA SALAMAT
Bulatlat.com

MANILA — Consumer group People Opposed to unWarranted Electricity Rates (POWER) reiterated its position that granting emergency powers to Pres. Aquino to address the Energy department’s projected shortfall in power reserves during next year’s summer months has become unnecessary.

At the Monday hearing of the House Committee on Energy, the Department of Energy admitted that the power shortage that it has been announcing is actually just a deficit in the estimated net reserve, equivalent to 21 and 31 megawatts on the first two weeks of April. A representative of the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP), who was at the same hearing, said this would translate to a possible 30-minute, once-a-week brownout for those two weeks.

Data gathered by the Joint Congressional Power Commission (JCPC) reveal that 1,531 megawatts of additional generating capacity and 1,773 megawatts of saved electricity can be made available by summer of 2015 without government having to rent or buy additional power.

“If a shortfall in the reserve of 21 and 31 megawatts in a week is all that the government aims to fill, there is more than enough supply. Certainly there is no need to grant the President emergency powers to sign negotiated contracts worth P6 to P10 billion ($136 million to $227 million) for 300-500 megawatts, as proposed by Sec. Jericho Petilla. We are glad that the Committee has realized this,” said POWER Convenor and former Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casiño.

POWER urged the DOE to sit down with the NGCP, ERC and various stakeholders to come up with an action plan to increase the power reserves for next year. “What is needed here is brain power, not emergency powers,” said Casiño.

In a position paper they presented to the House Energy Committee Monday, POWER proposed the following to address the projected thinning of reserves:

1) Ask the operators of Malampaya and Pagbilao 1 to postpone their maintenance shutdowns;
2) Require private power plants to deliver on their dependable capacities from March-May 2015 as stipulated in their contracts;
3) Ensure that government-owned plants particularly Malaya and CBK are able to run at their full capacities at that time;
4) Implement an aggressive energy saving and efficiency program for the same period;
5) Require privately-owned generating sets to run during periods of acute shortage to complement existing supply.

The consumer group insists that if the government “properly implements” these options, enough power will be produced to answer for the additional 300-500 MW of reserve power even during next year’s summer months, without the President having to invoke emergency powers. The consumer group stressed that there is no need to enter into expensive, negotiated contracts just to respond to a few week’s projected thinning reserves.

DOE needs to be put under oath?

After admitting in a hearing though that there is no problem with power supply but only that of power reserves, the Department of Energy (DOE) started saying again the next day that there is this “700MW power deficit” in 2015 and it demanded again for emergency powers. The DoE statement provoked a strong reaction from Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares. He gave the media an audio clip of the DOE official admitting at the Congress Energy Committee hearing that there is only projected thinning reserves, not power crisis.

Colmenares suggested putting the DOE officials under oath next time they attend public hearings to explain why they have been angling for emergency powers without factual basis.

“They are again trying to fool the people even if their data itself says that there would be no power crisis. It seems some people are really out to earn big from this emergency powers at our expense,” Colmenares said. Next year is also widely regarded as preparation year for 2016 elections.

At a press conference held by POWER last Friday, its spokesman, Teddy Casiño, estimated that at the known SOP (standard operating procedure) in commissions for contracts, those who stand to gain from the emergency power-generated contracts could easily rake in no less than P600 million to P1 billion ($13.6 million to $22.7 million).

Colmenares of Bayan Muna warned that no thanks to EPIRA, there will come a time that an energy crisis will take place indeed. But from DOE data itself, which they themselves confirmed at a Congress energy committee hearing, that crisis is not about to happen this 2015.

“While we should look for solutions if there is an impending crisis, we should guard against short term knee jerk solutions that make energy costly,” concluded Rep. Colmenares. ()

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