Gov’t urged to take over power barges

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/23 March) – Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casiño has proposed a government takeover of privatized power barges in Mindanao as an immediate step to address the reported power crisis in the island.

“It appears that there is enough power supply in Mindanao. The problem is that it is too expensive so the power distributors are not buying for fear of going bankrupt,” the lawmaker said in a statement Thursday.

He linked the “dramatic increase” in power rates to the privatization of the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines by the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corporation or PSALM which then entered into an Ancillary Services Procurement Agreement or ASPA with Therma Marine Inc. involving two privatized power barges, Power Barges 117 and 118.

Under the ASPA, Therma Marine would sell additional power to the Mindanao grid at a more expensive rate than when the power barges were still being used as baseload plants.

“Using the ASPA, the NGCP obtained a provisional authority for new power rates which is the cause of the exorbitant power rates today,”  Casiño said.

“Thus, a logical solution is for the government to take over the power barges of Therma Marine and add it to the grid as cheap base load power instead of expensive ancillary power,” he said.

“Temporarily taking over the power barges will lower prices allowing power distributors to buy cheaper power and supply it to customers. Based on Article XII Section 17 of the Constitution, the government can temporarily take over or direct the operation of any privately-owned public utility or business affected with public interest, if there is a national emergency, when the public interest so requires,” he added.

Casiño also urged the government to immediately rehabilitate the hydropower plants in Mindanao and tap solar power systems and other renewable energy sources to augment existing supply.

He said harnessing solar power and providing incentives for its massive use would significantly reduce the country’s dependence on oil companies and lower electricity rates in the medium term.

“Power crises then like in Mindanao would be a thing of the past,” he said.

Casiño has filed House Bill 5405 or the proposed One Million Solar Roofs Act which provides for incentives and financing facilities to encourage the use of solar energy by ordinary electricity consumers like residences, offices and small to medium business establishments.

Mindanao’s power demand is expected to grow at an annual rate of 4.56 percent from 2011 to 2030.

Demand is projected to exceed existing generation capacity by 2014 unless additional power generation capacity is installed.

Electric power distributors in Mindanao have imposed power curtailment citing the shortage reportedly being experienced by the Mindanao power grid, a deficiency that NGCP attributed to lower water levels in Lake Lanao.

But the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) earlier said the rotating daily power outages in the island “should not be that worse because there is an untapped 65 megawatts from state-owned hydropower plants.”

Sec. Luwalhati Antonino, MinDA chair, said Napocor’s Agus 2 and Pulangi hydropower plants have a combined untapped capacity of 65MW or more that could sustain demand within a few yours during peak loads.

She said Agus has an installed capacity of 180 MW but only 90 MW is being transmitted to the Mindanao grid while Pulangi has an installed capacity of 255 MW but only 180-200 MW is being dispatched. (H. Marcos C. Mordeno/MindaNews)