, October 02, 2022

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Power to the People


  •   2 min reads
Power to the People
Wknight94 talk, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

We cannot hope to see a golden age for the Philippine economy if we do not even have enough power to turn on a light bulb

Following recent forced outages that triggered a declaration of red and yellow alerts in the Luzon grid, the Department of Energy (DoE) announced it would investigate the cause of the outages.

The National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP) had already explained that several power plants were either on forced outage or unplanned maintenance schedule but “a short momentary transmission line disturbance” led to the declaration. Still, the DOE said it would conduct “physical visits” of the affected plants. We don’t really know what the DOE expects to find out from this investigation, other than visual confirmation of the decrepit state of most of our power plants.

The Energy Secretary is an old hand in the energy and power sector. He is acknowledged as an expert, having seen the state of power and energy from the vantage points of government and the private sector. He knows what ails the power sector, the problems that have been left to fester, and solutions offered but generally ignored by successive administrations.

The power and energy sector needs more players. Government needs to bring in more power investors in light of warnings from experts that the country faces a possible energy crisis with the expected closure of the Malampaya gas field in 2024.  Malampaya supplies 30 per cent of the energy needs of the Luzon grid, the economic backbone of the country.

But government cannot expect more investors unless it streamlines the approval process for new power plants.

The process to secure a permit to build a new power plant takes years. And you do not build power plants overnight. That would also take several years. This makes it difficult for supply to catch up with an ever-increasing demand for power.

The energy gap would have to be filled in, as they are being filled in, by aging power plants in need of regular maintenance, and, as we have seen, are prone to breakdowns.

We cannot overstate the importance of reliable power for consumers, businesses, and the economy. Perhaps even more important is the legacy of having solved the country’s power and energy problem. The brownout-plagued 1990s will be always be regarded as a blemish on the Cory Aquino administration. I am certain it is a lesson that is not lost on the present administration.

We are not even talking about transforming the country into an economic powerhouse or catching up with our more advanced neighbors in Southeast Asia.  We need sufficient, affordable, and reliable power to meet the needs of consumers and industries. The power situation must improve if government intends to provide more jobs and grow the economy.

We cannot hope to see a golden age for the Philippine economy if we do not even have enough power to turn on a light bulb. - Joey Salgado


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