DOE to give focus on power demand forecasting, says Petilla

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/09 August)—Lack of foresight resulted to the crippling power situation that marred parts of Mindanao in the last few years, Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla said Friday.

Speaking at the 22nd Mindanao Business Conference, Petilla said the Department of Energy (DOE) would want to develop an “effective demand forecasting system” to ensure stable supply in the island.

He noted that the Energy department is confident that Mindanao will have sufficient power supply in 2015, but cautioned against the possibility of oversupply of power if an effective forecasting system will not be put in place.

“We need to be smarter in the way we actually forecast our demand,” Petilla said, stressing the energy sector “has never really given importance to demand forecasting in the past years.”

“Demand forecasting is very important because it takes three to five years to build a plant. If we have power failures today, it will take us three to five years to build a plant,” he said.

Petilla, however, admitted that annual demand forecasting is very challenging because of the “difficulty in understanding people’s behavior on electricity consumption.”

Assuring Mindanao’s business leaders that the island will have stable power by 2015, Petilla said the DOE will put premium on demand forecasting to avoid oversupply thereafter.

“In fact, I’m more worried for Luzon and the Visayas because they need to catch up to meet the demand in 2016, whereas Mindanao will have enough supply in 2015 or earlier,” Petilla said.

He noted that government will step in if there are problems regarding the big-ticket projects committed to the island to make sure they go on stream as scheduled in 2015.

He was referring to the coal power projects of Therma South Inc. in the boundary of Davao City and Sta. Cruz, Davao del Sur and that of Sarangani Energy Corp. in Maasim, Sarangani.

Therma South is constructing a 300-megawatt (MW) coal power plant, with the first phase of 150 MW targeted to go on stream in the third quarter of 2014. On the other hand, Sarangani Energy is building a 200 MW power plant, with the first phase of 100 MW expected to run in early 2015

According to Petilla, the biggest fear in Mindanao in the future “is not shortage but oversupply.”

As of July 2013, he noted that indicative power projects for the Mindanao grid until 2020 can produce 2,351 MW.

Apparently fearing demand would be significantly lower than the supply, Petilla said many investors with indicative power projects in the island have resorted to a “wait and see mode.”

One of these firms is FDC Utilities, Inc., which according to the Energy secretary is downsizing its project from 405 MW to just 270 MW.

FDC plans to build its coal power plant at the Phividec Industrial Estate in Villanueva, Misamis Oriental. (Bong S. Sarmiento/MindaNews)