By Charissa Luci-Atienza
The so-called “Power Bloc” of the House of Representatives on Monday (Feb. 24) called on the Department of Energy (DOE) to step up its efforts and implement necessary measures in the face of a looming power shortage this summer season, even as it also appealed to the public to be “conscious” of their electricity consumption.
Four party-list representatives belonging to the electric cooperatives (ECs) sector voiced their serious concern over the impending brownouts and price spikes in summer.
Dagooc: No new power plants
“I believe that as much as we should deal with concerns on public safety, there is also a need to prepare for the increasing dilemma on power shortage. With power shortage, it is then inevitable that brownouts will follow, alongside with price spikes,” APEC party-list Rep. Sergio Dagooc told reporters in a press conference.
He said among the factors contributing to the projected power shortage are the lack of power plants to provide ancillary services to the grid, and the lack of new plants to cover the increasing demand.
Citing a DOE report, Dagooc noted that in 2019, no new plant was commissioned in Luzon, which has the highest power demand.
Last year, two new power plants with a total dependable capacity of 175 megawatts (MW) were commissioned in the Visayas, while one with a total dependable capacity of 276 MW was commissioned in Mindanao, he said.
“Every summer, we have been talking about this power shortage, this is a recurring problem. Why is it that it remains a recurring problem? The DOE should do its job,” Dagooc said.
He said the lack of new power plants would show that there is not enough available capacity to respond to the annual demand growth rate, especially in Luzon.
“The DOE is remiss [in] its job. It is their mandate to ensure stable power supply, but it seems that it is preoccupied with other things,” he said.
De Jesus: Act on CSPs
For his part, PHILRECA Rep. Presley De Jesus asked the DOE to immediately act on the electric cooperatives’ applications for competitive selection process (CSP) for power supply procurement.
He said data shows that it takes months for the DOE to approve the terms of reference (TOR) submitted by the electric cooperatives.
“It is imperative that DOE immediately act on applications for CSP since it will affect the electricity rates of ECs. Delayed CSPs will expose the uncontracted demand of ECs to volatile market prices which will be shouldered by the consumers,” De Jesus said.
There were six ECs seeking approval of their TORs: ISELCO I, CAGELCO II, BUSECO, BATELEC II, NEECO II, and PANELCO I.
Guya: Look into lower price caps
RECOBODA Rep.Godofredo Guya said distribution utilities like electric cooperatives are being blamed by consumers for the electricity price spikes.
He said based on the 2019 Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM) data, the aggregate peak demand in Luzon and Visayas last year was 13,450 MW with a demand growth rate of four percent and an estimate maximum available supply of 15,000 MW.
“Using this growth rate, the projected peak demand this summer will increase by 690 MW, which gives us an estimate of 14,140 MW. This is quite alarming, considering there were no new plants commissioned since last year. Thus we can expect a very thin supply margin this summer which will definitely translate into higher electricity prices,” Guya said.
He cited the need for Congress to look into WESM rules, including the setting of a price cap as a measure to mitigate the surge in market prices.
“While the initial market ceiling price was P62 per kilowatt hour (kWh), it is now capped at P32 per kWH which is still relatively high. It is imperative that we look into this and propose amendments to the rules such as lower price cap,” he said.
“We need to look into their rules on market clearing price and the price determination methodology in order to protect the electricity consumers form these perennial price spikes during summer,” he added.
Ebcas: Adopt demand-side management
For his part, AKO PADAYON Rep. Adriano Ebcas sought the adoption of demand-side management and other measures to help mitigate power shortages in summer.
“The adoption of demand-side management and other measures to help mitigate power shortage during summer would require…ECs to implement load curtailment or load shedding from the large power consumers as needed,” he said.
He noted that the ECs are in “close coordination” with the DOE for the implementation of the interruptible load program (ILP) in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.
“Companies with large establishments with embedded generators are encouraged to de-load and participate in ILP in order to leave enough supply for the residential consumers, especially during peak hours,” Ebcas said.
He explained that under the program, ILP participants will be compensated by the distribution facility for their fuel cost.
He also echoed the Power Bloc’s appeal to the power consumers to conserve energy and be “conscious” of their electricity consumption.
“Turn off the lights if you don’t use them, do not overload your outlets, avoid using extensions, unplug idle devices, set air conditioners at a reasonably comfortable temperature, and use energy-efficient appliances,” Ebcas said. “The Power Bloc is in solidarity with our consumers for the possibility of power shortage this summer.”