TAPPING private generators will not solve a projected power shortfall next year, lawmakers said on Monday.
Rep. Ben Evardone of Eastern Samar and Rep. Silvestre Bello 3rd of 1-BAP party-list made the statement in light of a proposal of brothers Rep. Rufus Rodriguez of Cagayan de Oro City and Rep. Maximo Rodriguez of Abante Mindanao party-list to allow the government to operate private generators producing at least one megawatt (MW).
In return, the owners of these generators will be compensated for the diesel fuel, rentals and salaries of the operators of the generators.
“The problem is generating more capacity for power. There is a need to construct more power plants. The [government]takeover won’t increase the capacity of existing plants,” Evardone, a member of the Joint Congressional Power Commission, said in a text message.
“Based on its track record in handling basic and sensitive public services, it might be foolhardy to let government take over privately-owned energy generators,” Bello, a former Presidential Adviser on New Government Centers during the Arroyo administration and a lawyer, said.
Bello was alluding to the time when Congress granted emergency powers to then-President Fidel Ramos, a move that resulted in at least P7-billion debt for the government since the 42 independent power producers (IPPs) that entered into a contract with the state did not meet their obligations in generating additional power supply.
House Deputy Minority Leader Neri Colmenares of Bayan Muna was even more skeptical of the proposal.
He said it is baffling why Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla is so eager to seek emergency powers for Aquino when the country has more than enough power supply.
Citing records from the Philippine Independent Power Producers Association, Colmenares said the peak demand for the Luzon grid is only 8,700 megawatts (MW) during summer. Of this, 6,121 MW come from the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco).
“Deducting dependable capacity from peak demand, there should have been allowance for reserves amounting to 2,967 MW. This is more than the 400 MW deficit that Secretary Petilla claims. Based on government figures, there should be more than enough supply even in a tight supply condition,” he said in a statement.
The lawmaker also questioned Petilla’s refusal to factor in the contribution of various sectors such as the Lopez-owned Avion plant, the Visayas grid that can export 80 MW to Luzon during summer, the Association of Retail Electricity Suppliers, which has committed to bring in 300 MW, and Meralco, which can contribute an additional 180 MW.
The South Luzon Tech Coal and Pililla Wind are also expected to be on the grid by early 2015.
Petilla is asking Congress to grant emergency powers to the President that will allow the government to lease or purchase power generating sets for a staggering cost of P6 billion and P9 billion, respectively.
Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. and House Energy panel chairman Reynaldo Umali said funding will be sourced from the Malampaya fund.
Under the law, the Malampaya fund should be spent for energy development projects and other initiatives deemed by the President, making it a discretionary fund of Aquino.
“If the source is Malampaya, then there is no additional burden to consumers. The government must provide subsidy so people will not be burdened,” Umali said.