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Loren Wants Task Force To Investigate Whether El Niño Really Affected Hydro Power Plants

March 5, 2010

SENATOR LOREN LEGARDA CALLED ON THE PRESIDENTIAL EL NINO TASK FORCE TO INVESTIGATE AND MAKE A TRUTHFUL ASSESSMENT WHETHER THE EL NINO PHENOMENON REALLY AFFECTED THE POWER GENERATION OF HYDROELECTRIC PLANTS EVEN AS SHE PUSHED FOR MORE PARTICIPATION BY PRIVATE SECTOR IN ENERGY GENERATION, PARTICULARLY IN MINDANAO.
Loren had expressed doubts whether the El Nino phenomenon affected the power generation of the hydro electric plants saying that the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) in its February 2010 El Nino advisory stated that near normal condition in rainfall was observed in Region IV-B (MIMAROPA), Bicol Region, Central Visayas, Northern Samar, and Central Mindanao (Pulangi IV hydropower plant). The rest of Visayas and Mindanao (Maria Cristina power plant) have received above normal rainfall.
“I think the electric crisis in Mindanao is not induced by El Nino but the result of the inability of this administration to encourage more participation by the private sector in power generation in Mindanao and to address the environmental issues raised against proposed power plants,” Loren said.
Energy in Mindanao is supplied by a mix of sources: two hydropower plants (727.1 megawatt Maria Cristina power plant and the 255-megawatt Pulangi IV hydropower plant) 60%; geothermal, 12%; diesel, 22%, and coal, 6%.
Loren also said that giving emergency powers to the President will not alleviate the problem of low power supply in Mindanao.
“Instead of recommending the granting of emergency powers to the President, the Department of Energy (DOE) must explore all possible means to address the present power problem in Mindanao,” Loren said.
She added that if the government had implemented a long-term plan to improve the power supply in the country, we will not be experiencing this problem at this time whether there is the El Nino phenomenon.
Loren noted report that over the last decade, there was a dramatic growth in demand for power supply in the country. Industry sources said annual growth in demand for power supply in Mindanao has been steadily increasing at a rate of 4.7 percent since 2005. By early as 2009, DOE has warned that demand will equal if not outstrip Mindanao’s dependable capacity to produce electricity.
The report also said that between 2006 and 2014, several projects, covering 850 megawatts of additional capacities, have been planned by the DOE to meet the growing demand for power in Mindanao. However, with the exception of the 200-megawatt Sibulan hydro plant (scheduled to go on commercial stream in October this year), no new power plants are slated to be commissioned by 2014.
Loren said short term solution to the Mindanao power crisis does not require emergency powers. She expressed support to the proposal of the Philippine Independent Power Producers Association to adopt the Cebu model of Interruptible Load Agreement between Visayan Electric Company (VECO) and participating private companies.
Loren also favors the resumption of operation of the 35-megawatt Iligan diesel power plant of the National Power Corporation (Napocor). She urged Napocor to negotiate with Iligan City government on the settling of its local tax deficiencies.
The lady senator appealed to generator suppliers not to overprice the generator units they are selling to business establishments that opt to purchase generators to enable them to continue their operations even during brownouts. She also urged judicious use of electricity among the populace
Loren said the new administration should study, plan and implement a long-term solution to the power crisis in Mindanao. She stressed that emphasis should be placed on the generation of clean, renewable or green energy including increased geothermal power generation to address environmental concerns.