DOE reiterates “limited” government involvement in power generation

cusi senate hearing red alert

The Department of Energy (DOE) has reiterated its position for the government to be involved again in power generation following last week’s Red Alerts in Luzon and similar incidents in recent years.

During the Senate energy committee’s hearing on the brownouts on Thursday, Energy Sec. Alfonso Cusi said that the government would have a limited engagement mainly to supply reserves when other plants are forcibly shut down.

Cusi emphasized that his proposal doesn’t call for the government competing with the private sector, which owns almost all power plants in the country.

Power generation for the whole country was once the main role of the National Power Corporation (NAPOCOR) until its assets, including its plants, were subject to privatization under Republic Act 9136 or the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA). For this purpose, the EPIRA created the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corporation.

Cusi’s suggestion, which he first made in another congressional hearing in April, will require an amending of the EPIRA.

The Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC), however, said there is no explicit provision in the EPIRA barring the government from returning to power generating activities. ERC Chairperson Agnes Devanadera pointed out that what the law explicitly calls for is the privatization of NAPOCOR’s assets.

Meanwhile, the DOE also took the opportunity to ask the Senate to consider other power sources, such as nuclear energy, subject to technical and safety factors.

Cusi stressed that nuclear power is being used in other Asian countries as technological advances have made it possible for risks to be better managed.

The Duterte administration has been considering the inclusion of nuclear power in the country’s energy mix even if the Bataan Nuclear Plant is not reopened.