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Energy group doubts DOE’s ability to regulate power firms, sounds alarm over brownouts

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By Madelaine Miraflor 

An energy advocacy group has questioned the ability of the Department of Energy (DOE) to ensure there will be no power supply interruptions during the senatorial and local elections on May 13.

In a briefing on Tuesday, officials of Murang Kuryente Partylist (MKP) expressed their disappointment at the seeming inability of the DOE to enforce the country’s generation companies (GenCos) and distribution utilities (DUs) fulfill their mandates of providing affordable and reliable energy to consumers.

“In the whole of 2017, there were only three yellow alerts for the grid. [The year] 2018 had seven yellow alerts for the whole year. Yet in 2019, an election year, there were 10 yellow alerts and even red alerts and April has not even ended yet,” said MKP nominee and longtime energy advocate Gerry Arances said.

Over the last week, Luzon grid fell short of 1,367 megawatts (MW) as five coal power plants went on forced outage, namely SMC Consolidated Power Corporation Limay Unit 2 (150 MW), TeaM Energy Corporation Sual Unit 1 (647 MW), Southwest Luzon Power Generation Corporation Unit 2, and Pagbilao Energy Corporation Unit 3 (420 MW).

These failures, according to MKP first nominee Anton Paredes, cost consumers and the economy dearly.

“A one-hour blackout in Metro Manila already costs the economy roughly P2.7 billion. And this is just from the stoppage of economic activity that requires electricity and does not include second-order effects,” said Paredes.

“Power companies have legal and contractual obligations to provide power at reasonable cost. They are not giving either of them. They don’t respect our laws, perhaps because government agencies are not enforcing these laws,” he added.

For his part, MKP third nominee Glenn Ymata raised suspicions concerning the scheduling of planned shutdowns and the rash of forced outages which led the country to the crisis it is now experiencing.

“I don’t know of any business that would schedule maintenance during peak season. Maintenance is done before or after peak season, but the logic of our power industry is to do maintenance during peak season because it gets them more profits. This twisted incentive happens because no one stops them or punishes them from exploiting the consumer. This must change.” Ymata said.

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