MANILA (Mabuhay) – “The biggest sin is to not to do anything at all.”
This was the explanation given by Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla to lawmakers who are still hesitant about granting Section 71 of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA),
EPIRA prohibits the government from putting up power plants, but Section 71 states the President can ask Congress for authority to contract additional generating capacity if there is a looming shortage.
“The President, upon determination of an imminent shortage of supply of electricity, may ask Congress for authority to establish additional generating capacity under approved terms and conditions,” the provision stated.
Petilla clarified the government is not preventing the private sector from contracting additional energy, even as it seeks additional powers for President Aquino to address a shortage next year.
But Petilla notes though they urged Meralco to save up to 400 MW to augment their supply, the utility firm was only able to sign up a fraction of that figure in a span of 8 months.
“I told them (Meralco), gather 400MW of ILP. Since December up to August, with all the pressure we’ve been giving Meralco, they were only able to sign up 115MW,” he said.
Petilla adds letting the private sector do all the sourcing will lead to higher electricity costs for consumers.
“Can they build one? The answer is yes. Will they build? If they can’t recover costs, it’s a business, they won’t, of course… If they actually built one and they’re allowed to recover, ipapasa sa tao. The costs will be exuberant. The government won’t allow it. So they won’t build it if nobody foots the bills,” he said.
But granting the President extra power doesn’t mean there won’t be any rate increases, the hike will just be lower.
“Ang stand ng gobyerno is basically, we don’t want to give this for free. Why? Lahat ay mag-dadasal na may power crisis kasi libre ang kuryente. On the other hand, you don’t want to pass it on to people because the cost will be exuberant,” he said.
Asked if government will subsidize costs, Petilla said: “It will be subsidized, otherwise, it would be very high.”
Government is looking at three options for contracting additional energy supply, which include renting, buying existing power plants or purchasing power from private companies under the interruptible load program. But each comes with its own set of obstacles.
In the summer of 2015, power demand will exceed supply which will lead to electricity outages.
Congress has to act fast and those who still have misgivings should be informed about the real power situation.
“They’re saying they want to make sure they’re not giving the President blanket authority. They don’t understand what’s going on kumbaga. Ako naman I’ve been meeting with JCPC (Joint Congressional Power Comission) on Congress side, maybe we can help to them various options in place,” Petilla said.
Petilla adds once the 2015 shortage is fixed, supply for the succeeding years should also be secured. (MNS)