House Energy panel chair again urges emergency powers for PNoy

President Aquino tours and views the exhibit on the promotion and advancement of solutions and initiatives on energy efficiency during the Energy Smart Philippines (ESPhil) 2014 in Pasay City (MNS photo)

President Aquino tours and views the exhibit on the promotion and advancement of solutions and initiatives on energy efficiency during the Energy Smart Philippines (ESPhil) 2014 in Pasay City (MNS photo)

MANILA (Mabuhay) — The chair of the House energy committee on Monday stressed anew the need for Congress to approve the emergency powers sought by President Benigno Aquino III at the soonest possible time, warning the country’s economic growth may suffer if the looming power crisis next year is not addressed immediately.

“The President has already brought us to remarkable economic growth… It would be a let-down to the country if the growth is halted, if not reversed, because of power shortage in the summer months of 2015,” Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali said at the first committee hearing on House Resolution 1533 filed by Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr.

The resolution calls for an inquiry into the need to establish additional generating capacity to determine the energy needs of the country in 2015.

Aquino has asked Congress to pass a joint resolution granting him authority to contract additional generating capacity for the Luzon grid to address the impending power shortage of at least 300 megawatts (MW) from March to June 2015.

The House energy committee has conducted several hearings over the course of the three-week recess to determine the potential available capacity that may be tapped by the government when power supply is short next summer.

Umali said he hopes to have the joint resolution approved by the House by October 29, before the House goes on another two-week recess.

The joint resolution will only authorize the President to contract additional generating capacity for the summer months of 2015, the lawmaker clarified.

“After [the summer months], all committed power plants would have come in. No power shortage would be expected in the coming months [after summer] provided that the Department of Energy does an accounting of all the committed power plants that [could come on board],” Umali said.

Emergency powers not necessary

The civil society group People Opposed to Unwarranted Electricity Rates (POWER), however, questioned the supply shortage forecast by the Department of Energy, saying data from National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) negates this.

In a position paper submitted to the House energy panel Monday, the group said the gross power reserves would still be at 520 MW for March 2015, 1,174 MW in April and 231 MW in May even if the Malampaya gas facility shuts down in April, the Pagbilao 1 shuts down in May and demand increases during the summer months.

These are the factors cited by the DOE for the tight power supply starting March 2015.

“This means that strictly speaking, there is a buffer reserve of anywhere from 2,338 MW to 3,187 MW during the 2015 summer months,” POWER said.

While the group acknowledged that supply levels in the summer months next year may dip to critical levels, it said this isn’t enough basis for Aquino to be granted emergency powers.

“At this point, the most that can be said of the supply situation in the summer of 2015 is that reserve supplies will be at critical levels.This is hardly a reason for granting the President emergency powers for negotiated contracts, resulting in a big and unnecessary burden to taxpayers and higher power rates for all,” POWER said. (MNS)

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