Senate to probe power supply outlook on polls

By MYRNA M. VELASCO, Contributor
September 2, 2021


AS uncertainties in the power supply situation in the country persist, the Department of Energy (DOE) will be dragged into another Senate investigation where it is expected to present a definitive supply-demand scenario and lay down contingency measures in case the 2022 national elections will be marred with rotational blackouts.
Energy Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi has been giving pronouncements that “there will be no brownouts” in next year’s polling period, but Senate Committee on Energy Chairman Sherwin T. Gatchalian is less convinced.
Given apprehensions over the sufficiency of power supply next year, especially during the summer months that will coincide with the election period, the Senate energy committee deemed it prudent to call the DOE to come up with pre-emptive measures to avoid power interruptions on those critical periods.
“It is crucial that programs are already in place, taking into account all eventualities to guarantee continuous supply of electricity during the 2022 automated elections,” Gatchalian said.
Several groups have cast doubts on the authenticity of the power supply-demand outlook put into view by the DOE since there are still factors not integrated in its short-term energy planning – including the forced outages and de-rating of power plants; specific schedule of preventive maintenance of generating facilities; as well as the extent of gas restriction that will be experienced from the Malampaya field next year.
With such weak planning by the energy department, some stakeholders expressed fear of possible cheating during the election period. Such apprehension has been bolstered by the fact that the DOE Secretary serves as president of the ruling party PDP-Laban.
Cusi has also been criticized by various energy stakeholders for devoting more of his time on political affairs, instead of fixing the power supply mess that the DOE is supposed to prioritize because that is the agency’s core mandate.
As noted by Gatchalian, “We must ensure the credibility and transparency in the conduct of the elections as well as the delivery of fast and accurate results reflective of the genuine will of the people.”
The lawmaker reiterated that the current power supply-demand vista in the DOE forecasting — which is trying to paint a “no yellow or red alerts” happening in the system — is still sketchy, because “the outlook does not take into consideration the forced and unplanned outages of power plants and the declining supply from the Malampaya gas field.”
Gatchalian is reminding DOE that the rotational blackouts that happened last summer and even those in 2019, also an election year, had been mainly “attributed to the unplanned outages and de-rating of power plants.”
He further stressed that “power interruptions last summer happened despite earlier statements from the DOE that it was optimistic that the country will not encounter major challenges or any alerts that may result in insufficiency of supply.”



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