DOE: No need for emergency powers on election day
MANILA, Philippines – Power supply should be stable this summer, including during the May 9 elections, according to the Department of Energy.
"We don't see the need for emergency powers because we are managing it," Energy Secretary Zenaida Monsada said in a briefing on Monday, April 25, referring to the country's power situation, particularly on election day, May 9.
"We are learning things from last year and the previous election. At this point, there is strong cooperation among all stakeholders in the power sector," Monsada added.
The DOE head was referring to the possible power crisis in Luzon during summer last year, which didn't happen in part because of the Interruptible Load Program (ILP).
The threat prompted then energy secretary and now senatorial candidate Jericho Petilla to recommend, in July of 2014, that the President be granted special powers under Section 71 of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) to address the situation quickly.
The recommendation caused much debate at the time partly because of the controversies hounding the executive branch on the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).
Monsada pointed out that there is no longer any need for such a situation as the government is keenly monitoring supply as well as the reserves available.
For Luzon, she said electricity demand on election day could hit an average of 9,000 megawatts (MW) against 12,000MW of supply, leaving 3,000MW in reserve.
That supply figure also includes new gas plants from Lopez-led First Gen Corporation – the 414MW San Gabriel and the 97MW Avion plants which Monsada said were now in the testing stage.
The DOE chief, however, stopped short of guaranteeing a glitch-free election day given that there are some factors beyond the agency's control.
"The DOE cannot say that there won't be any blackout because we are not the power plant operators. But we will assure the public that we are doing all the preparations necessary to avert such an incident," she said.
The government has also appealed to all power generation companies in Luzon to make all the necessary preparations, with Monsada emphasizing that "these firms must do all the repairs before elections."
For Meralco's part, the utility firm's president, Oscar Reyes, said that the ILP could also be tapped to avert any possible crisis on election day, noting that it has been working well since 2014.
He added that Meralco is also monitoring the maintenance schedules of power plants and hoping that these are all spread out.
"We also hope that new power plants, the San Gabriel and Avion, will be activated before election. At the end of the day, it all boils down to supply," Reyes said.
Earlier this year, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) also raised fears that blackouts during elections could occur in parts of Mindanao, although these worries were predicated on possible deliberate sabotage rather than supply failure.
The Comelec also pointed out at the time that the vote counting machines to be used could run on battery power for 15 hours. – Rappler.com