Gov’t may expand role in power generation to build up reserves


THE DEPARTMENT of Energy (DoE) said Tuesday that the government is considering greater involvement in generating power to build up reserves, and has its eye on plants that are in the process of being privatized.

“There is a question which I have been raising before. Should the government start being involved in generation for the reserve? Will the government build the plant, operate it as a reserve and privatize it as we go along?” Energy Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi said during the Joint Congressional Energy Commission Hearing Tuesday. He added that the country “needed the capacity.”

He was telling Senator Sherwin T. Gatchalian, who chairs the Senate Committee on Energy, that this was one of the policy proposals under consideration.

“There are power plants that are being privatized like Casecnan (hydroelectric power plant or HEPP) that are being privatized… Maybe what we should do is for the government to take over that one and… operate it as a reserve,” Mr. Cusi said.

In January, the state-led Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp. (PSALM) said it is working with the Asian Development Bank to study privatization options for Casecnan, in Nueva Ecija.

BusinessWorld asked PSALM to comment on the status of the privatization but had not replied at deadline time.

Mr. Cusi also underscored the country’s need for reliable power supply during the pandemic.

“We need to provide this electricity. We cannot have an intermittent supply — whether this is (for) the poor or the rich or for business. We need to have that, that’s why… I think that the government should go back to the generation so that we can have that continuity,” he said.

During the hearing, Mr. Gatchalian said the committee needs more information on the DoE’s plans in light of the apparent “divergence” from the intent of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001 (EPIRA), which encouraged greater private participation in the industry.

EPIRA requires the government to enhance the inflow of private capital and broaden the ownership base of the power generation, transmission and distribution sectors. — Angelica Y. Yang