Power crisis looms in 2015

Published by rudy Date posted on July 22, 2014

MANILA, Philippines – Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petillla will ask President Aquino to declare a state of emergency or crisis in the power sector to allow the government to tap additional power capacity next year.

He said there is a projected deficit of 200 megawatts (MW) for some days of April and May 2015, and the emergency powers would allow the government through the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp. (PSALM) to contract additional power.

Petilla said he is recommending additional capacity of up to 500 MW, instead of just 200 MW to provide a buffer in case the projected deficit becomes bigger.

“It’s only for a few days next summer,” he said, adding the measure is necessary to avoid blackouts next year, as some power plant projects or expansion plans may not push through.

Petilla cited the Malampaya natural gas facility in offshore Palawan, which is expected to shut down from March 15 to April 14, 2015.

Supply not enough

“There is an admission that by 2015 our supply is not enough. There are projects that we feel may not push through,” he said.

The Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) of 2001 prohibits the government from constructing power plants. However, Section 71 of the law states that the President, upon determination of an imminent shortage of supply of electricity, may ask Congress for authority through a joint resolution, to establish additional generating capacity.

“The emergency power allows the President to come up with additional capacity,” Petilla said.

President Aquino has not approved Petilla’s recommendation as of press time yesterday.

If and when the President invokes Section 71 of the EPIRA, the government through PSALM will contract additional capacity by renting diesel fuel facilities similar to what Japan used in the aftermath of the nuclear disaster that hit Fukushima in 2011.

A 200-MW bunker fuel facility will cost an estimated P1.5 billion, which the government can get from the Malampaya Fund, Petilla said.

The committed power projects for next year include the 87-MW Burgos wind farm scheduled to commence in February; 150-MW coal plant and 18-MW biomass facility in May; 10.8-MW biomass and 13.2-MW hydropower plant in August; 67.5-MW Pililia Wind in September and a 100-MW Avion plant in October.

Not purely technical

Reacting to Sen. Sergio Osmeña III’s claim that he is not qualified to head the Department of Energy (DOE) because he lacked the technical background, Petilla said his job is not purely technical.

Speaking to reporters during the weekly Kapihan sa Diamond Hotel forum, Petilla said he also needs political and corporate skills to deal with stakeholders.

He said he has corporate and political skills to head the DOE, citing his experience as former governor and information technology businessman with 4,000 employees.

“The DOE is also a Department of Everything, where you deal with corporate personalities and also with grassroots leaders, among them tribal groups, barangay chairmen and local chief executives,” he said.

He said the skills of a politician are also needed to speed up the construction of power generation plants and explain their benefits to residents of affected communities.

“Before starting any power plant project, local officials and stakeholders in the local level must be consulted. That’s where political skills are needed… you cannot go to the barangay with coat and tie and iPad to explain the project,” he said.

Osmeña had told the same forum last week that Petilla has no technical skills, adding that the appointment of politicians in the DOE would worsen the power outages in the country in the next five years.

But Petilla said several power generation plants are lined up for the next two years and it is only a matter of time before the demand for electricity would be filled up. –-Iris Gonzales (The Philippine Star)  with Paolo Romero, Mayen Jaymalin, Perseus Echeminada, Artemio Dumlao, Eva Visperas

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