Senator sees power shortages ahead

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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

SENATOR Sergio Osmeña III on Tuesday said the country faces a shortfall in electricity this coming summer and possibly decades ahead principally due to the lack of adequate planning and expertise in the energy sector.

Osmeña, in an interview, further said that the solutions are not immediate as it takes four to five years lead time to build a power plant.

"Hindi puwede na magpatayo ng power plant in one month or one year, it takes about 39-56 months to build that type of plant," the senator said.

Meanwhile, a Malacanang official said power industry players should not paint scenarios, such as the possibility of brownouts in Luzon this summer and spike in electricity bills, that could alarm the public.

Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. made the statement following reports that Manila Electric Company (Meralco) chairman Manuel Pangilinan warned of tight and unreliable power supply in the Luzon grid and this could result to increase in electricity rates.

"Sa halip na mag-drawing ng mga senaryong lilikha lamang ng pangamba, mas mainam na ang pagtuunan natin ng pansin ay ‘yung mga positibong hakbang, katulad ng mga isinasagawa ng pamahalaan na ngayon para tiyakin ‘yung katatagan ng supply at tiyakin na hindi magkakaroon ng mga power outages," Coloma said in a regular press briefing.

He said the focus of the government is to ensure that there will be enough power supply in the country and to reduce brownouts, particularly in Mindanao.

He assured that there is enough power supply in Luzon and Visayas.

"Wala namang tightness of supply sa Luzon at sa Visayas kung ihahalintulad sa Mindanao," Coloma said.

He said the Department of Energy (DOE) has been monitoring the power situation in the country in an "hourly" basis.

Osmeña said that the power problems in 2014 can be blamed on the previous administration but by 2015 power shortages can only be blamed on the present Aquino administration.

"Ang kelangan po talaga long range planning. 'Yung nangyari po ngayong 2014, kasalanan pa ni Gloria Arroyo 'yan. Ngunit, next year, 2015, kasalanan na ni PNOY 'yan, sapagkat he should have done something in 2010 to alleviate any power problem in 2015, ganun kahaba ang lead time na kelangan mo sa power," Osmeña said.

The senator said the price spikes last November-December 2013 can only be blamed at the administration's lack of foresight and planning.

"'Yung price spike nung November-December, ayan po regular ang down time ng Malampaya, every three years may mahaba na maintenance period 'yan, as long as 30 days. Alam ko 'yan kasi every election year 'yan eh - 2007, 2010, 2013. Like clockwork, the next one will be in 2016 and 2019, every three years po 'yan. Alam po nila in advance kung kelan mangyayari 'yan. Dapat hinanda na nila ang lahat ng scheduling ng mga down time ng iba't-ibang planta. Pero hindi nila ginawa 'yun," Osmeña said.

It was just a simple matter of coordination, Osmeña said, which the Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla failed to do.

"It's very easy to do. Kausapin mo lang sila, sabihin mo lang sa kanila, 'ang scheduled down time mo dito... maghintay ka muna siguro ng mga one or two months, para hindi sabay-sabay ang down time ninyo," he said.

The other mistake the DOE failed to do was to run the Malaya 600 megawatt plant facility, Osmeña said.

"May planta ang government, 600 MW, 'yung Malaya thermal plant. Hindi pinatakbo," he said, as he stressed that power rates follow supply and demand just like the price of rice.

"Kapag maraming supply, parang bigas, bumababa ang presyo. Kung kulang ang supply, mataas ang presyo.Napaka-simle niyan, ABC lang 'yan. Pero bakit hindi nila pinatakbo 'yan? Kung in-offer ninyo 'yan on certain days, hindi aabot ng P32. P35, P42 ang clearing price ng WESM. It could be as low as P12, all the way down to P5," he said.

Fix terms of ERC officers

Osmeña further said that the fixed terms of officers of the Energy Regulatory Commission remains to be a good provision to minimize politicization and to promote the appointment of qualified personnel with expertise in the energy sector.

"'Pag puwedeng palitan ang mga members ng ERC, it will be subject to political appointments 'yan. Kaya I agree with the fixed term," he said.

He advised, however, that the appointments should be taken seriously as the welfare of the entire country is at stake.

"Hindi na dapat maglagay ng mga politicians diyan sa ERC. The three chairmen of the ERC have been all congressmen - Congressman Manny Sanchez Congressman Rudy Albano and Congressman Zeny Ducut. Anong kaalam-alam nila sa power?" Osmeña said as he expressed his disappointment on the present energy situation in the country specifically in Mindanao.

He suggested that people with expertise in utility economics, management, and computer could contribute very well to the ERC.

"Isang abogado lang ang kelangan in that three-man team. Noon, puro abogado ang ina-appoint diyan," he said.

Earlier, Osmeña described Petilla as a mere politician who doesn't really fit to do his job as Energy Secretary.

At the same time, Osmeña blamed the present government for the alleged failure of the Aquino administration in handling the energy problem of the country. (Camille P. Balagtas/SDR/Sunnex)

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