Power stability is crucial to PH economic recovery

The country’s economic recovery hinges on the stability and reliability of power supply, and stakeholders must act in unison to ensure fuel and electricity rates do not hamper industries’ ability to rebound from the economic crisis brought by the COVID-19 pandemic.

This was the main message of the virtual town hall discussion organized by Stratbase ADR Institute, titled Ensuring Power Supply Security for a Sustainable Economic Recovery, held via Zoom on November 11.

“We need to attract supply by reducing red tape, which is the enemy of new supply,” said Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy.

“We need to diversify energy supply, particularly maximizing renewable energy, and diversifying energy sources. We should undertake aggressive oil and gas exploration. Oil and gas will still be a reliable source in the next 20 to 30 years. Based on data from the DOE, we have enough (potential) oil to power our economy in the next 36 years, and enough gas in the next 90 years, but we’re just not utilizing the gas we have efficiently,” he added.

The senator cited the experience of Japan and Singapore, which do not produce coal or gas, but have managed to diversify their energy resources to not be beholden to a single country.

A stable power supply will improve our business climate, attract foreign investment, and create more jobs, therefore accelerating the revival of the Philippine economy, said Stratbase ADRI President Professor Dindo Manhit in his opening remarks to the virtual forum.

The panelists of the virtual town hall discussion titled Ensuring Power Supply Security for a Sustainable Economic Recovery held via Zoom.

“Thus, the incoming government must consider energy policies that protect consumers from high electricity prices and the economy from losses caused by power outages,” he said.

“Initiatives towards the modernization, efficiency, and reliability of our power supply would foster sustainable and inclusive economic growth for the whole nation.” he added.

Professor Louie Montemar, Convenor of Bantay Konsyumer, Kuryente, Kalsada (BK3), highlighted the importance of the planning and coordination of maintenance cycles, and said that these must be governed by stakeholders in the industry.

“Government’s policies in the sector may need to be developed, clarified, or fine-tuned,” he said, adding that we need to accelerate the pace of technology adoption by developing the necessary regulatory framework, including raising the incentives for both the customer and the supply chain stakeholders.

“The power industry is a P30-trillion endeavor, ten times our current national budget. Improvements here are even more necessary as we ease into an even more digitized and thus more electric power-hungry social order.”

CitizenWatch Philippines Convenor Orlando Oxales, meanwhile, warned about the economically devastating effects of power outages on our economy.

“Energy resilience is a matter of national security that must have the purest approach and benefits our national interest, our people’s interest. We need a power and energy agenda devoid of corrupt interests. We need a clear roadmap that ensures stable and affordable electricity for the country’s economic recovery,” he said.

“We must focus on what responds best to industrial needs,” said Jose Alejandro, Adviser for Energy and Power and Chair of Utilities for the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

“We should act and decide with a positive sense of urgency, focus, integrity, unity, and courage.”

Ernesto Pantangco, Chairman of the Energy Committee of the Management Association of the Philippines, said energy security can be seen in three perspectives: supply, cost of power particularly generation costs, and demand-side management.

“Once the economy opens, demand is expected to pick up by approximately 5.28% annually. This translates to a demand growth of close to 600 MW in Luzon or 800 MW in terms of total Philippine requirement per year,” he said.

“The solution comes not only from trying to increase the supply but also from demand side management. This is a solution to tempering the growth of our energy demand, particularly the peak loads. This comes in the form of energy efficiency, studies to lower the energy consumption of industries, shifting operations from peak to off-peak hours, and availing of time-of-use tariffs, insulation of rooftop solar powers to assist in peak load production.”

Other speakers in the forum were Meneleo Carlos, Jr., Chairman Emeritus, Federation of Philippine Industries, Inc. (FPI); Romeo Bernardo, Vice Chairman, Foundation for Economic Freedom; Bienvenido "Nonoy" Oplas, Jr., President, Minimal Government Thinkers; Atty. Terry Ridon, Convenor, Infrawatch PH; and Atty. Victorio A. Dimagiba, President, Laban Konsyumer, Inc.