Manufactured crisis?


At the hearing of the House Committee on Energy Committee last Monday, Department of Energy (DOE) Assistant Director Irma Exconde presented the updated Luzon Supply-Demand Outlook and revealed that the supposed shortage in power supply in 2015 is but a thinning of reserves in April instead of the scenario earlier painted by DOE Secretary Jericho Petilla.

The hearing was held to discuss the joint resolution granting President Aquino emergency powers to address the supposed looming power shortage in Luzon in 2015. The granting of emergency powers was being insisted on by Petilla shortly before the State of the Nation Address of the President this year.

Based on their own data and computation, the DOE officials at the hearing said that Luzon would only be experiencing a shortfall of 21-31 MW in reserves during the first two weeks of April 2015. The National Grid Corporation of the Philippines representative explained that if this worst-case scenario indeed happens, it would mean one hour of rotating brown outs on peak hours once a week during summer.

This scenario is so much different from Petilla’s earlier pronouncements that Luzon could experience a power supply shortfall of up to 1200 MW, which translates to months of outages in 2015. Petilla has been urging the Congress and Senate to grant the President emergency powers to allow the government to contract back-up power at the cost of about 6 billion pesos and compel private companies with generators to participate in the Interruptible Load Program or ILP.

Before last Monday, the DOE was saying that there would be a shortfall of from 180 MW up to 285 MW in the two weeks of April and 37 MW to 100 MW in the last week of May. This shortfall was said to still increase further if the El Nino will be factored in. The reserve was computed by subtracting from the available power capacity the projected electricity use (demand) and the regulating reserve.

During the Monday hearing, the DOE changed its computation. The officials reported that with the installed capacity of 12,769 MW and subtracted the dependable capacity of 11,389 MW but subtracted another factor— the planned outages–to calculate for the existing available capacity. The DOE stated that planned outages are the capacity that will not be online at the projected time because of planned maintenance of the power plants.

What is questionable in this computation is the introduced factor, as pointed out by POWER convenor and former Representative Teddy Casino, the addition of forced outage as an additional factor on available capacity is based on the assumption that the reduction of power supply that happened this year will happen again at the same time next year. The difference in the figures reported by Petilla in the news programs and the latest presentation of the DOE in the hearing is that the energy department has changed its computation and figures and seem to add more factors in its assumptions arbitrarily, whichever will look worse.

These forced (and planned) outages were belied by statements from the private power producers themselves. When asked how much capacity they could provide, the Philippine Independent Power Producers Association representative stated that they have more than 11,000 MW capacity available to supply the power needs next year and would strive for a 100% availability of their dependable capacity.

Private companies have also disclosed that on top of this capacity, they offered their additional committed capacities that would come online next year and their willingness to participate in the ILP to avert the power shortage if there ever will be one next year. The potential savings from energy efficiency and conservation efforts are still not even factored in the supply.

The presentations in the hearing led those attending to the conclusion that there will be no actual shortage in supply next year but at worst, the summer would bring only thin reserves. These could be prevented if the DOE exerts due diligence to ensure that the planned and forced outage would not occur.

The committee also stated that there is no rush to grant emergency powers to the President, no need to contract additional capacities through purchase or rental and that the remaining option that needs to be discussed are the terms and conditions in the ILP.

The DOE secretary, instead of doing his mandate of ensuring affordable, reliable and adequate supply of electricity has been painting doomsday scenarios to bully consumers and lawmakers into granting the President emergency powers. Petilla and the President must give an explanation for issuing confusing statements and threatening the public with a power shortage based on data and computation that they could not even defend.

The yearly power shortages can be prevented if the government would be able to put electric power plants online in a predictable manner. Under the EPIRA, except through the emergency power clause, the government is helpless in this case. To avoid this chronic problem, the solution is not to manufacture crises but to dispose of the EPIRA law altogether.


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  1. Is there no better solution than provide emergency powers to Pnoy? Oh yeah, the people in the energy sector are incapable of doing any preventive measures other than milking the tax paid by the people. There should never be any need of emergency powers if only the energy sector listened and followed the advise of the experts. Build more sufficient electrical power plants so we can sustain our own energy needs.

  2. Marimar Enriquez on

    So now, the government scrambling for band aid solutions like emergency powers for Aquino to buy or rent expensive generators to produce expensive electricity. 6 Billion is the price tag for the Summer months alone 2015.

  3. The good secretary is doing a perfect job for the UNDAS. Gumawa ng multo named BROWNOUT2015. Eto ay nabuo dahil hindi nya tinupad at hindi nagapprove ng mga application para sa bagong plant. Dahil walang nagawang bagong plant kaya kulang daw ang kuryente, kaya kailangan nila ang special power daw. Kung my special power na c Pinoy ay wala ng kukuntra sa pagwaldas nya ng pera. Walang bidding sa pabili o pagupa ng diesel generator. Gastosin ang naiipon na Malampaya fund, cgurado wala ng katapusan gastusan na hndi na rin mahabol ng COA dahil by 2016 ay hindi na rin sya sa DOE. Kawawa ang taung bayan. Ang multong BROWNOUT2015 din ang ginagamit nyang rason na hindi sundin at ipatupad ang FINAL AT EXECUTORY DECISION NG SUPREME COURT na bayaran ang backwages ng mga tinanggal na emplyado ng National Power Corporation noong 2003. Dahl sa hindi agarang pagtupad, ang mga dating tauhan na nawalan ng hanap buhay ay marami nghirap, may sakit at namatay, pero sa kabilang banda ang claims ay lalo pang lalaki dahil sa interest na kasama sa judgement. Baka my plano pa etong hintayin mamatay lahat ng claimants para makalibre sa bayaran. Ganyan kagaling ang DOE Secretary..

  4. >>> DoE + President = NGANGAHHHH FACTOR !!!
    >>> DoE means not Department of Energy but …DELIBERATION ON ELECTION !!!!

  5. The Administration did nothing for 4 years to address this issue, so now they want to be rewarded for their inefficiency by asking for emergency power be granted to the President. Tama .. Ganyan nga … Reward inneficiency… I give up…

  6. na naman, ala oscar orbos episode noong panahon ni cory. Petilla should be kicked out like Orbos, conditioning the minds of the people, nakakahiya, ibasura ang proposal ni petilla at magresign-NOW

  7. The problem really is not the shortage in terms of power generation but the congestion in the power line transmission. When the private sector agrresively invested in putting up power plants, NGCP should have anticipated and upgraded or set up new transmission lines… Now they are asking for emergency power for the lack of foresight

    • herminio p. roc on

      tama po kayo mr. balbago, ngawa ng ngawa yan si petilla tungkol sa generation pero hindi binabanggit ang transmission. saan kaya dadaan ang generation ng mga bagong planta na papasok sa darating na panahon?

  8. Edgar G. Festin on

    Thank you, Dr. Tapang. More power and more columns that show us readers the scientific dimensions of government actions.

  9. petilla’s ploy get LP’s hand on the malampaya funds to beef up the 2016 election kitty is busted!

    • mukhang dyan nga sa malampaya funds ang ultimate target ng mga kkk. nagiisip sila ng mga ways and means to get hold of funds and at the same time circumvent the sc ruling on savings and pooling of funds for projects not approved by congress, to replace the unconstitutional pdaf.
      me thinks that in the end congress would give aquino the emergency power he wants coz the lap dance groupies in congress would need the funds and do not want aquino to lose face with regards this scheme of petilla. is this scheme of petilla with the blessing of the lp leadership?? if so then expect approval of the emergency power