Energy Secretary Raphael Lotilla has urged state-owned National Power Corp. (Napocor) to consider tapping nuclear energy to sustain its mandate of supplying electricity to far-flung areas.
'As we go down the road and consider new opportunities in modular nuclear [energy] or even the future of fusion as a source of power, these are the opportunities that [NPC] may look into,' said Lotilla during Napocor's 86th anniversary celebration.
He is referring to small modular reactors, or advanced nuclear reactors with limited capacity (70 megawatts per module) that can shut down and self-cool for an indefinite period of time, if needed, without operator intervention.
Lotilla urged Napocor to look beyond present-day challenges and explore new opportunities to strengthen the power sector.
With skyrocketing fuel prices gnawing on its viability, Napocor has been asking the government for a higher 2023 budget to sustain its diesel power plants.
Napocor had reiterated the need to include its supplemental budget in the 2023 General Appropriations Act (GAA).
'Inclusion of our proposed special provisions in the GAA would allow our board to augment our budget if possible sources of funds become available without going back to Congress,' Napocor president and CEO Fernando Martin Roxas said in a letter to the House Committee on Appropriations.
Previously, Napocor warned of possible widespread power outages in missionary areas covered by small power utilities group (SPUG) plants across the country in less than a year. It flagged its inability to pay fuel suppliers, which might result in the shutdown of diesel-fired power plants.
Fuel expenses, comprising nearly 70 percent of Napocor's operational costs for both its SPUG plants and new power provider subsidies, are now twice as large as the state-run firm's available funds.
Napocor department manager for financial planning and budget Jenalyn Aurea Tinonas had said in a Senate hearing that the DBM's recommended budget would allow them to run their diesel plants only until July 2023.
Tinonas noted that the proposed allocation would not be enough to operate SPUG plants and barges for a full year, or to cover funding requirements for new power providers and qualified third-party subsidy.