President Benigno Aquino 3rd on Tuesday said his request for emergency powers to rent generators for a looming energy shortage is no longer an option.
In a forum with business executives in Makati City (Metro Manila), Aquino explained that power generators require six months of installment and even if a joint resolution granting his request is approved by Congress, the facilities cannot be set up before the summer of 2015.
“Congress has not given us that power as of yet, and of course, the emergency period or the critical period is from March, April, May, June and July next year. So that doesn’t seem to be an option at this point in time,” he said.
Aquino, upon the recommendation of the Department of Energy, had asked Congress to issue a joint resolution to grant him special powers.
Such powers, which are provided under the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (Epira), would allow the government to address the power situation in case of severe El Niño, and the Malampaya shutdown, which cannot be postponed anymore.
While the House of Representatives was earlier open to granting him emergency 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.
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.”
“So, Congress and some members of the private sector are very, very inclined to just utilize the so-called Interruptible Load Program. My caution was these back-up generators are precisely that, back-up generators, not base load plants,” he added.
“And there is no assurance that . . . I’m just trying to give you the picture as I see it so as not to raise false hopes. The reason we wanted the plants, the base load plants, was precisely because they have demonstrated capability to produce the attendant power.
Unfortunately, the cost is also high, between 6 to 12 billion pesos of something that we hope we will not utilize. But it is better to have and not need than to need and not have,” the President said.
Aquino said other options have been considered such as using plants like Malaya I and II, but the Energy department 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.”
Meanwhile, according to the President, a rise in the cost of power is “expected,” but said “the most expensive power is no power.”
He noted that the government has sought to reduce consumption.
“We have distributed something like 8.6 million of the higher efficiency bulbs in an effort to reduce power consumption and lessen the demands, especially as we face next year’s potential crisis,” Aquino said.
He earlier put the economic cost of a power outage in the summer of 2015 at between P9.3 billion and P23.3 billion, depending on the duration of the power outage.