The Power for People Coalition has warned that the National Power Corporation’s (Napocor) move to cut electricity service to remote areas served by its Small Power Utilities Group (SPUG) is an indicator of what the Philippines can expect in 2023 due to the reliance on fossil fuels by the country’s energy grid.
The National Electrification Administration (NEA) announced the cut last Thursday, citing the high cost of diesel fuel as the reason.
SPUG supplies electricity to remote communities as mandated by Republic Act 9136, or the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA), through small diesel power plants.
“We are running out of diesel, and we can’t just keep using the people’s money to buy more. What brought us into this unfortunate situation is the former Department of Energy Secretary Al Cusi’s emphasis on fossil fuels and the current DOE Secretary Raphael Lotilla’s distraction with short-term solutions instead of structural reforms to the power sector,” said Gerry Arances, P4P Convenor.
The small communities served by the diesel power plants of Napocor would have greatly benefited instead from indigenous renewable energy sources, both in receiving a steady supply of electricity and affordability of energy, Arances said.
“The communities served by Napocor are not connected to the main grid. They have relatively lower energy requirements and are not in a financial position to pay for high-priced electricity from diesel,” he said.
“Instead of spending the people’s money to continue to subsidize diesel purchases, the DOE could have used these resources to build microgrids that would spare the residents from the worst effects of the power crisis,” said Arances.
The energy consumer advocate expressed concern that the same thing would soon happen to the national grid.
“Coal and natural gas prices continue to rise. In the case of natural gas, there have already been reports that long-term supply contracts are no longer available, exactly at the time when the supply of Malampaya is drying up. We cannot be trapped in chasing electricity with more money to be paid by consumers,” he said.
“Ultimately, consumers would balk and stop paying or there will be simply no fuel to burn. Let’s break out of the trap and fast-track renewable energy development,” said Arances.