• House to grant Aquino limited extra powers

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    THE House of Representatives will grant additional powers to President Benigno Aquino 3rd but it will be limited to stop him from purchasing or leasing additional generator sets that may cost the government P6 billion to P10 billion.

    Rep. Reynaldo Umali of Oriental Mindoro, chairman of the House energy panel, on Tuesday said instead of buying power generators, the government can give compensation to companies that will join the Interruptible Load Program (ILP) to address a possible power shortfall in 2015.

    “Yes, there will still be emergency powers [granted to the President]. We’ll remove the option of buying a power plant and leasing generator sets for 300 megawatts (MW),” Umali told the weekly Ugnayan sa Batasan news forum.

    He made the statements after the Energy department admitted that it recommended the grant of emergency powers to the President because of thin power reserves.

    Assistant Director Irma Esconde of the Energy department’s Industry Power Management Bureau told congressmen on Monday that even in a worst-case scenario, the power shortage would only be 31 MW.

    Given such data, Umali said the emergency powers that will be given to Aquino will only allow the government to provide compensation to private companies or self-generating facilities who will participate in the ILP.

    ILP is a scheme wherein malls and big companies with large standby generation capacity will not get power supply from power plants and instead use their generators. As of Tuesday, the power supply from ILP participants stood at 593 MW or 107 MW behind the Energy department’s ideal figure of 700 MW.

    Based on the projection of the Energy department and the Energy Regulatory Commission, the government would need to spend P400 million or P80 million monthly for five months to compensate companies who enrolled in the ILP.

    “If we can fill in the P700 MW, then we’ll have no more brownouts. We will give a window for various entities and self-generating facilities to register [their ILP participation]until December 1. If you don’t register before December 1, then you won’t be compensated,” Umali said.

    “From now until December, we hope to get more voluntary participation to fill in the remaining 107 MW. If they failed to register by December 1 and the public needed to use their supply after that date, then they won’t receive compensation. That is the importance of this deadline,” he explained.

    The lawmaker noted that the P400-million compensation for ILPs is cheaper than the P6 billion that the state would need to lease additional power generator sets or the P10 billion needed to purchase them as suggested by Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla.

    “The emergency powers will address ways on how to go around possible transmission congestion once the ILPs are in because the Grid Code, which sets such guidelines, cannot be just waived [without emergency powers],” Umali said.

    “Based on what the engineers told me, you can’t just suspend the pertinent provisions of the Grid Code. They have this Systems Protections Scheme wherein you can’t exceed the capacity of the transmission lines, except for emergency situations where it may be allowed by cutting one line to give way to another,” he added.

    But the Department of Energy (DOE) also on Tuesday insisted that there will be a power shortage next year because at least 1,400 megawatts of power capacity will be needed from the ILPs.

    Energy Undersecretary Raul Aguilos said by summer next year, the power shortage will be 700 MW.

    “We were able to scour [for additional capacity]but there were forced outages and delays in the construction of incoming plants so because of this we have this problem now. The problem of reserve is a problem of supply. The point is we lack supply so we need to add capacity by summer,” Aguilos added.

    Mylene Capongcol of the DOE said the reliability of ILPs is only around 45 to 70 percent.

    To date, she added, the DoE estimates that only 155 MW can be contributed by the ILPs who signed up with Manila Electric Co. (Meralco).

    Based on previous experience, Capongcol said only half of the ILP capacity will be able to deliver power.

    In Malacañang, Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said the President will continue his push for additional powers “to ensure stable supply and reasonably priced electricity” during the summer months of 2015.

    “We will continue working with Congress in providing an appropriate response and a satisfactory solution, stable and reliable supply at rates that are reasonable and not excessive or abusive,” Coloma told reporters.

    WITH CATHERINE S. VALENTE

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