ENERGY Secretary Jericho Petilla on Monday allayed fears that electricity rates would go up by P5 to as much as P15 per kilowatt hour (kwh) next year, saying the cost of electricity may only increase by 20 centavos to 50 centavos.
Petilla made the pitch as he urged Congress to grant emergency powers to President Benigno Aquino 3rd to allow him to address a looming energy crisis.
The Energy chief noted that the available additional power supply for Luzon for March to June 2015 is running low at 160 megawatts or far from the required 700 MW.
Petilla said if Congress granted the President extra powers, the government would be able to rent generating sets that could produce 300 megawatts at a cost of P3 billion a year.
At such cost, power users may have to pay an additional 20 centavos to 50 centavos per kwh by summer next year.
“That is the price we are hovering at. I still find it [two-year contract] very long. But we need additional capacity that does not exist. Yes, this will cost a lot. But what is the alternative? We have to get rid of brownouts and we will do everything to make sure that brownouts don’t happen,” Petilla said.
He reiterated his call on Congress to grant the President additional powers to allow the government to contract power generating sets because the Interruptible Load Program (ILP) being implemented by the Department of Energy will not be enough to address the looming power shortage.
Under the ILP, shopping malls and big companies with large standby generation capacity do not get their electricity from power plants but from their generators.
But Petilla said the scheme would only raise 160 MW, which would not fill the projected 700 MW that Luzon would need to avert brownouts next year.
The Energy chief said there is also the possibility that the aging Malaya 1 and 2 power plants, which produce 600 megawatts, may conk out anytime.
The repairs on Malaya 2 have just been finished but its test run did not go well. On the other hand, Malaya 1 was initially expected to start generating power in March 2015 but the target date was moved to June 2015.
“The problem on supply is not today. We are not worried about the supply now because while some power plants are down, the demand is also down. When the demand is higher come March to June, that’s the problem. That’s why we need to impound supply up to the maximum,” Petilla said.
Although Aquino had asked the House of Representatives and Senate to pass a joint resolution granting him extra powers to tackle the looming electricity shortage, both chambers are yet to act on the President’s request.
Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said he would be forced to call for a special session if the House failed to pass the proposed P2.606-trillion budget for 2015 as well as act on the President’s request for extra powers before September 26.
Also on Monday, plenary debates on the 2015 budget were delayed for lack of quorum.