Producers give assurance on power

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No power outage is expected amid the on-going collusion probe involving certain power producers that may have undergone unplanned closures during the scheduled Malampaya gas field shutdown in November, which triggered the controversial, unprecedented power rate hike.

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It was earlier feared that the power producers that are covered by the probe may opt not to run their plants during the investigation, which could result in power outages.

Luis Miguel Aboitiz, president of the Philippine Independent Power Producers Association (Pippa), said that there will be no problems in power supply in the short term, and disregarded the issue of threats that companies that are involved in the case will just choose to close down their plants.

“Right now, there is sufficient power supply, prices are relatively stable, and the weather is relatively cool. There’s more than enough supply. I don’t see a problem in terms of supply and demand in power,” he said.

Aboitiz added that demand for power is historically low during the month of January until February, and power interruption depends if there will be forced outages due to malfunction in large plants.

Asked if it would be better if the collusion probe would end before the summer where there is normally a high demand for power, Aboitiz only said, “The sooner all these issues are resolved, the better.”

“It all depends what the results is. It all depends what the final decisions are. It’s not over yet. Investors are still waiting,” he further said. This summer, Aboitiz projected that the demand for power will be higher by 5 percent.

The Supreme Court recently released a 60-day temporary restraining order (TRO) on the power rate hike by the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) that was approved by the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC), which would have added P4.15 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) or an increase of about 60 percent to consumers’ power billings.

The unprecedented increase was being blamed at the month-long shutdown of the Malampaya natural gas platform, which forced Meralco, being the country’s largest distributor, to buy supply from more expensive sources.

A day after the ERC approved Meralco’s plan to charge the P4.15 per kWh increase in three tranches, the Department of Energy announced that it will investigate whether there was a collusion among power suppliers.

The plants allegedly involved in the issue are the 1,000-megawatt Santa Rita and 500-MW San Lorenzo power plants owned by First Gas Power Corp. (First Gen); the 1,200-MW Ilijan plant of Kepco Philippines Corp.; the 730-MW Pagbilao power plant of Team Energy Corp.; the 600-MW Masinloc power plant of AES Philippines; and the 600-MW Calaca power plant of DMCI Holdings Inc.

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