In a post by Yahoo!News yesterday, it was made known that the Philippine charges on electricity are one of the most expensive in the world. Everyone could definitely find this shocking considering the fact that sporadic outages happen in the country including the hours of rotating brownouts in Mindanao.
Indeed, electricity in the Philippines is one of the most expensive in the world. For Industrial electricity tariffs for 2010, we rank second in Asia for the most costly power rates costlier than that of Korea, Malaysia, or Japan and just one spot shy of Singapore.
For residential rates, the following table would surely blow any Filipino’s mind. According to a 2008 study, the residential rates of other industrialized countries like France and Japan, have cheaper residential rates than ours.
In 2001, the Government passed a bill that aims to reduce the price of electricity in the country through EPIRA. During the administration of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) was passed which aimed to lower our electric bills.
The electric industry, which was earlier monopolized by the government, was opened made it available to the private sector. It was split to four: generation (or production), transmission (the sending from plants to substations), substation, distribution (selling and buy of electric supply), and distribution.
For each 10 pesos paid for electricity, 6 pesos goes to Generation. Two pesos goes to distribution expenses on supply and metering while more than one peso accounts for transmission while the rest, goes to the government as taxes.
Before EPIRA was passed, the electric bill is only five pesos per kilowatt hour in MERALCO the largest supplier of electricity in the Philippines. Last November 2011, it skyrocketed to 11 pesos definitely far from the objectives of the EPIRA.
The same problems with MERALCO, can be said with other regions like Mindanao. Add to this, the rotating brownouts. Take a look at the Agus power plants here in the city of Iligan: as of March 7, a press statement from the energy department emphasized that the “hydropower plants in Mindanao are already running in their optimized available capacity.”
This prompted Energy Secretary Rene D. Almendras to warn the public that “considering the future lower rainfall forecast in Mindanao, we cannot rely solely on hydropower plants.” He thus stressed that “non-hydro baseload is immediately needed and this will only happen if everyone cooperates.”
Why do we have these brownouts, most notably in Mindanao? The National Grid Corporation of the Philippines has an answer. In a press statement, NGCP announced that the Mindanao grid lacked 178 megawatts, an increase of 40 MW from the 138 MW shortfall on Feb. 22 to March 12. Add to this the obstinate stance of some electric cooperatives when it comes to entering into bilateral supply contracts, according to the energy department. That, it added, has been aggravating load curtailments being experienced by customers in various areas.
While some say that this problem is ‘artificial’, it can’t be denied that such power outages wreak grumbles from the public.
Foreseen solution to the Mindanao power crisis would not be cheap says Energy undersecretary Josefina Patricia Asirit. “The cost is something like P2 billion but it will not actually solve the problem because what will just happen is that you will just be able to dig deeper and have more space for the silt to come in because of denudation of the areas beside (the river)”, she added.
“Within one to two years, we’ll have a more silted area in the Pulangi River,” Asirit added, noting that the National Power Corporation (Napocor) is still waiting for the release of money that will extend the life of Agus hydropower plant.
Meanwhile, other members of the ‘Mindanao bloc’ in the House of Representatives Wednesday blamed government officials in the power sector for the 150-megawatt shortage in electricity.
Bukidnon Representatives Jose Zubiri III and Florencio Flores asked government officials to rethink the privatization of three government-owned power barges in Iloilo City and another one in Davao City – a move expected to raise charges of electricity to P14 million.
Representative Rufus Rodriguez explained that the removal of silts along Baloi area would have enabled Agus hydropower plant to maximize its 660-megawatt available capacity to 820 megawatts, which could already provided quick-fix to the power deficit due 1,300-megawatt energy demand in Mindanao.
Rodriguez said energy officials could have already sourced out 40 megawatts of power by desilting Pulangi River, which could have prevented a repeat of 8 to 10-hour rotating brownouts in Mindanao in 2010.
Well, the solution of Mindanao’s problems is still in the hands of its local politicians. There are solutions on the table but our officials have to want to be helped for genuine solutions to happen.
So, knock-knock our dear politicos, the outages sure piss everyone off. As for me, I need to post this blog entry on-time before the striking of another brownou
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