By Victor V. Saulon

NEA given Aug. 11 deadline on Palawan power woes

Posted on August 10, 2017

THE NATIONAL Electrification Administration (NEA) has until Friday to look into the liability of Palawan’s power suppliers as the province continues to be burdened by worsening outages since the start of the year.

Senator Sherwin T. Gatchalian, chairman of the Senate committee on energy, told reporters that he had ordered NEA to investigate the power interruptions and submit its findings and recommendations by Aug. 11.

“It’s really a problem of [power supply],” he said, adding that his committee would want to find out which among the three big suppliers to the Palawan Electric Cooperative (Paleco), the island’s main distribution utility, has a problem.

In a statement, he identified the power generation companies as DMCI Power Corp., Palawan Power Generation, Inc., and Delta P, Inc.

Mr. Gatchalian said he had urged the Paleco leadership to review all of the utility’s existing power supply agreements (PSA) with independent power producers, which include the three companies, to check if they were complying with their commitments.

He said the outages have been a problem since last year, and have worsened since the start of 2017. He pointed to DMCI Power “for the breach of its contractual obligation.”

The senator also gave the Consunji-led company until Friday to submit a detailed action plan and timetable on how it will fulfil the 25-megawatt (MW) requirement under its interim PSA.

He said the supply shortage stemmed from the company’s failure to build a coal-fired power plant in the area because of opposition from residents. DMCI Power resorted to diesel power plants, which he said were not stable.

“When we find out that these suppliers are in trouble we will recommend to Paleco to terminate your contract, to find a new supplier as it is the solution -- find a new supply,” he said, when asked about the possible penalty for the companies.

He said his committee found a maximum of 18 hours of system average interruption duration index, or the length of power interruption experienced by consumers, in the Paleco-covered areas, with a frequency of at least nine times a month since January this year.

Sought for comment, DMCI Power issued a statement saying that it was not in breach of its PSA with Paleco.

“Our contractual obligation is to deliver 25MW of electricity using thermal and diesel power plants. However, due to the continued opposition of certain stakeholders, we are unable to construct and operate the committed thermal facility, which would have effectively addressed the need for stable, reliable and affordable power in the province,” the company said.

It said it supports the senator’s call for NEA to conduct an investigation into the spate of prolonged power outages in Palawan.

“More than the issue of adequacy, we believe that power source reliability and system efficiency are the root causes of these power interruptions,” it said.

DMCI Power said it was hopeful that the permitting process would be hastened with the passage of Executive Order No. 30, which creates an energy investment coordinating council that will streamline the regulatory procedures affecting energy projects.

“With the recent signing ... we are optimistic that all permits necessary for the construction of the thermal power plant will be promptly acted upon, as this will solve the energy reliability issues in the province,” it said.

In the meantime, the company said it had deployed more diesel generating sets to Palawan to help Paleco manage the power supply situation.

“We have a total of P1.4-billion investments in the area, which is over and above what was committed under our bid,” it said.

DMCI Power said that as requested by Mr. Gatchalian’s committee during a dialogue with Palawan stakeholders on Aug. 3, it was submitting its action plan on Friday.