No assurance from DOE of blackout-free polls

Cusi virtual roundtable

Power interruptions are among the usual reasons given behind cheating allegations in elections, but the Department of Energy (DOE) still could not assure that rotating blackouts will not happen during the elections on May 9, 2022.

Energy Sec. Alfonso Cusi was asked at the House energy committee’s hearing last week if he could make such an assurance, but failed to give a concrete answer.

Cusi, also the president of administration party PDP-Laban, instead threw the responsibility of safeguarding a “no blackout scenario during the election period” to private stakeholders, emphasizing that they are the operators and owners of the power plants in the deregulated electric power industry.

Hei said that the DOE has been doing its job and everything in the energy sector is at the hands of the private sector.

Next year’s polls will fall within the second quarter, also the most notorious for rotating brownouts due to high electricity demand and low supply. This year’s Red Alerts and power outages happened across Luzon from May 31-June 2, which is also in the second quarter.

Cusi was also questioned by House deputy speaker and Cagayan De Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez if the DOE can assure that brownouts will not happen in the future, but the energy chief still dodged the question. Cusi said instead that new investments are needed for additional capacity, and that the wheeling of stranded capacity in the power system has to be addressed.

The secretary particularly mentioned that more than 2,000 megawatts (MW) of stranded capacity in Luzon has to be resolved by investments in transmission facilities. He also included in his count a liquefied natural gas plant that has yet to have its completion date.

With this, Rodriguez asserted that the DOE has not been doing enough to boost power generation in the country. Cusi then argued that it’s not right to accuse the department because it is forcing industry players to comply with government policies to make the energy sector competitive and secure.

Meanwhile, APEC partylist Rep. Sergio Dagooc cautioned the DOE to countercheck the deals that Cusi pushed the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines to enter into, specifically for ancillary services, or reserve power to avoid the double-charging of consumers.