House warns power producers

by Maricel Cruz & Macon Ramos Araneta, 05 March 2015
from Manila Standard Today

SPEAKER Feliciano Belmonte Jr. on Wednesday warned the power sector not to worsen the expected electricity shortage this summer through unscheduled power plant shutdowns.

“The power industry must not make matters worse by arbitrarily shutting down power plants whose maintenance can be rescheduled after the March to July critical period,” Belmonte said.

Belmonte

“The power producers should behave responsibly at this time when all are sacrificing,” he said.

Belmonte also called on the Department of Energy and the Energy Regulatory Commission, as well as the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines, to work closely with one another and step up their monitoring of the independent power producers’ delivery of available capacity.

“Both the DOE and ERC have a duty to carefully scrutinize these sudden claims of forced outages to ensure that these are really because of unexpected mechanical breakdowns,” Belmonte said.

“We should guard against any artificial shortages caused by the deliberate withholding of supply just to jack up prices,” he said.

Senate President Franklin Drilon on Wednesday said the decisions of President Benigno Aquino III when using his emergency power to address the power crisis was not subject to review by Congress.

“These are matters that will not be subject to review by Congress,” Drilon said.

He said there was no oversight to ensure the quality, reliability, security and affordability of the supply of electricity in the country.

He said the resolution that he authored granted President the power to issue orders to address the power shortage. He said it contained provisions that were crafted to address the imbalance in the supply of power.

Senator Teofisto Guingona, a member of the bicameral conference committee on giving emergency powers to the President, said they were yet to come up with another schedule to meet on the issue.

The House of Representatives had earlier granted emergency powers to Aquino to address  the projected power crisis in Luzon this summer by building up dispatchable power reserves through the Interruptible Load Program or ILP.

Through the ILP large industrial and commercial MERALCO customers would run their own generators, thereby freeing up electricity to be used by residential customers, the small users who do not have back-up generators. The government would then compensate these ILP participants.

Belmonte expressed hope that the Senate would not pass on to residential consumers the additional burden of shouldering the cost of the ILP program. The House and Senate Bicameral Conference Committee are expected to finalize the resolution by next week. Meanwhile, power interruptions have already been occurring in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.

“The DOE and the Grid Management Committee should already actively implement measures to prevent forced outages given that brownouts are now occurring nationwide,” Belmonte said.

“Where there is a red alert declared by the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines, there should be a sequence protocol to meet the shortage such as first disconnecting those with large generators but who have not volunteered to be participants of the ILP.

“Since it is the people’s money that would pay for the committed ILP power supply, the DOE and ERC must ensure efficient utilization of these public funds.

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