CitizenWatch seeks tight guard on power plants

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A newly-formed energy watchdog, CitizenWatch, has urged the public to guard against unannounced or forced outages of power plants to prevent an acute shortage of electricity in the crucial period between March and April.

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The group launched Power Plant Watch, a project aimed to monitor the tight supply of energy, particularly focusing on the activities of power plants that may again unceremoniously go on maintenance shutdowns.

According to Wilford Wong, secretary general of CitizenWatch, they will act as a watchdog and coordinator for consumers.

“The program will monitor the movements in the supply side of generation companies, discouraging unscheduled maintenance and shutdowns. We will coordinate with different government authorities and power plants to ensure the success of this project,” Wong explained.

“We all know how crucial energy supply will be, basic economics dictates that the tighter the supply, the higher the prices of a commodity will be. But tight supply can be avoided if power plants would coordinate properly with the authorities on their shutdowns,” he said.

Malacanang deputy spokesman Abigail Valte earlier said the Energy department is on its toes against simultaneous plant shutdowns especially during the summer season when the demand for electricity is high.

“As much as possible, [we wont allow simultaneous maintenance shutdowns. That’s why it’s very important [that we schedule them and that is being done by]the Department of Eenergy),” Valte added.

She said there were occasions where power plants closed down for maintenance at the same time but she gave assurances that the DOE “works with them to make sure that the problem is addressed as quickly as possible.”

Wong said CitizenWatch has been actively participating and monitoring pertinent hearings in Congress, in addition to coordinating with stakeholders in an effort to verify the numbers the companies have submitted to the House of Representatives.

Rep. Rey Umali, chairman of the House Committee on Energy, has expressed support for the project, citing its benefit to all stakeholders, particularly consumers, Wong said.

“At the end of Power Plant Watch, the program will continue even after the summer months, and a stakeholders forum will be held to show the results of the monitoring. This will help the government to come up with a more viable policy and program in the energy sector,” he explained.

CitizenWatch convenor Tim Abejo lauded the 13-0 voting of the Supreme Court that allowed Redondo Peninsula Energy (RP Energy) to proceed with the construction of a 600MW coal project in Zambales.

“The issue of inadequate supply remains to be the root cause of our energy woes, which this project will be able to partly address when the plant begins to run in three years’ time,” Abejo said.

“The decision is an important one as the country hosts the APEC [Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation] conference this year. In particular, it is a relief for businessmen, investors and power developers as it assures predictability in the business environment, a key element in investment decisions,” he added.

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