Aquino hopes for ‘non-existent El Niño’ after failing to get emergency power

MANILA: Despite pushing for additional authority from Congress to address the looming energy shortage, President Benigno Aquino III said on Tuesday that the government will continue to pursue other options and just hope that the country “will have a mild or non-existent El Niño situation next year.”

Aquino admitted that contracting generating sets for the impending power shortage is no longer possible.

“That doesn’t seem to be an option at this point in time,” Aquino said during the general membership meeting of the Semiconductor and Electronics Industries in the Philippines (Seipi) held at The Peninsula Manila in Makati City.

He explained that the generating sets require six months of installment and even if the joint resolution is approved by Congress, the facilities cannot be set-up before the summer of 2015.

In the end, Aquino said that government will continue to pursue other options and just hope that the country “will have a mild or non-existent El Niño situation next year, will not produce the emergency situation and that we will all have the necessary power.”

The President told the electronics industry, which is dependent on reliable and affordable energy, that he did not want to “raise false hopes.”

The semiconductor and electronics industry supplied 42.2 percent or $24 billion of the country’s total exports last year. It also employs 331,000 Filipinos with 2.3 million more workers provided with indirect employment.

Risky options

Responding to the question on reliable power, Aquino enumerated the options and the challenges faced by the government.

He said running both the Malaya 1 and Malaya 2 power plants is an option but there are risks involved.

“We cannot use, utilize them to their full-rated capacity because doing so (will result in) major problems,” he said.

Aquino explained that the plants are old and their parts need to be fabricated instead of bought off-the-shelf. They also consume millions of litters a day.

“Now, if you run them at full capacity of about, again, about 300 or so megawatts each, there is a 90 percent probability that they will conk out. Running them at about 230 will give us, again, a 50-50 chance for them conking out. So, we will have about 120 megawatts for each one,” he said.

Aquino and Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla earlier said that the country will experience at least a 300-megawatt power shortage in the summer of 2015. However, it was later revealed in a House of Representatives hearing that the shortage will only be around 21 to 31 megawatts in the buffer supply.

Aquino said there are also reconditioned plants that can provide about 110 megawatts.

He cautioned against the private sector and Congress’ preference to rely on the Interruptible Load Program, which allows companies with generators to sell their excess energy to the grid.

“Unfortunately, others are taking a more optimistic look that the Interruptible Load Program will suffice to carry us through. The main issue is really the occurrence of forced outages and the graphs presented by the Department of Energy point out that there is really a substantial danger,” Aquino explained.

He said government has also been promoting reduced power consumption by distributing around 8.6 million high-efficiency bulbs.

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