Aquino: Special powers to help gov't 'prepare for the worst'
MANILA, Philippines – A few days after the House committee on energy said it is not likely to give President Benigno Aquino III special powers to address the impending energy crisis, Aquino reiterated the need for Congress to provide him with the means to “prepare for the worst” in terms of power supply.
“At the end of the day, if there is no power – and the selling of power for that matter – if at there is no power come our summer months, there will only be one party that will be blamed, and that will be the executive,” Aquino said in a forum with the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP) on Wednesday, October 22.
He said that seeking special powers from Congress is part of his bid to prevent unscheduled or “forced outages” in early 2015, as warned by the Department of Energy in the absence of the requested government intervention to address the problem.
“I’m the guy who says, ‘Plan for the worst and hope for the best,’ or you can take the opposite view of hope for the best and plan for the best,” he said.
Such powers, which are provided under the Electric Power Industry Procurement Act (EPIRA), would allow the government to address the power situation in case of a severe El Niño, and the Malampaya shutdown which cannot be postponed anymore.
At a House hearing on Monday, the Deparrment of Energy projected 3 to 5-hour rotating brownouts for 5 days in a row in the summer of 2015, cotnraty to the data of the House committee which showed only a 31-megawatt shortfall, or a one-hour rotating brownout for one day in a week.
Aquino, upon the recommendation of the DOE, had asked Congress to issue a joint resolution to grant him special powers under the EPIRA. This would allow the government to contract additional power supply to address the projected 2015 power deficit.
While the House was earlier open to granting him powers, lawmakers appear less inclined to do so after comparing data, and seem more likely to recommend the Interruptible Load Program (ILP) to address the energy shortage.
The ILP is a voluntary scheme where customers with large power loads, such as factories and malls, will be asked to operate their own generator sets during peak hours. The ILP, rather than contracting power, would also be a less costly option.
At the FOCAP forum, Aquino acknowledged that the ILP "is a plausible substitute" but said "these standby generators for the most part have never been considered as baseload plants."
"What’s the difference? The standby generator, you run for a few hours. These ILP producers, in effect, will have to produce on a very regular basis, perhaps on a daily basis, if and when the reserve situation is seriously jeopardized. We go into the ‘Yellow Alert’ or, at worst, ‘Red Alert’ that they call. Now, we wanted to have other options to be able to draw from in case there’s a need," Aquino said.
Aquino said other options have been considered such as using plants like Malaya I and II, but the DOE said the age of these plants could be a problem, since "spare parts for these plants have to be fabricated rather than ordered off the shelf" and would likely "conk out."
He said he would also want a final decision on the coal plant project in Subic which energy firms are pushing for through the firm Redondo Peninsula Energy Inc (RP Energy). Local government units and residents in and around the Subic Freeport Zone oppose the project despite the apparent support of Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA).
"What do we want to see in the coming days? Perhaps we’d also like to ask the judiciary to finally rule on the Redondo issue in Subic Bay with finality. As you know, that could have been decided rather quickly from our perspective,"Aquino said.
He added: "And if it had been approved, then you would have additional 600 megawatts already being produced by the end of this year, but it’s still pending with them. So the ground has been prepared and after that nothing else because there is that pending issue with the courts."
Aquino also emphasized that a rise in the cost of power is "expected," but said "the most expensive power is no power."
"For instance, semiconductors account for a very significant export item for us. If you have a shutdown from their 24/7 plants, you throw away significant batches of their products. So if there is no power, you throw away their production, then all the lost opportunites will go hand-in-hand," he said.
Aquino said the economic cost of a power outage in the summer of 2015, ranges from P9.3 billion ($207.6 million*) to P23.3 billion ($520 million*) depending on the duration of the power outage.
"The lower figure assumes power outage of two hours a day on average for 3 months. The higher figure assumes a worse scenario of 5 hours a day also for 3 months," he said.
"The estimate does not include foregone investment and tourist arrivals arising from the negative impact of the power outage on the country’s image as investment and tourist destinations." – Rappler.com
*$1 = P44.79