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Rotating brownouts worsen in Metro

By Abigail L. Ho, Yolanda Sotelo, Elmer Kristian Dauigoy
Philippine Daily Inquirer, Inquirer Northern Luzon
First Posted 02:27:00 04/09/2010

Filed Under: Electricity Production & Distribution, Energy

MANILA, Philippines?Rotating brownouts took a turn for the worse Thursday as Metro Manila and other parts of Luzon suffered longer outages because a number of power plants were still down, either on maintenance shutdown or due to fuel constraints.

The outages lasted two to three hours, up from just two hours the previous day, in different parts of the franchise area of Manila Electric Co. (Meralco), the country?s biggest power distributor.

Its franchise area has a population of 24 million and covers 29 cities and 82 municipalities, including Metro Manila, the entire provinces of Bulacan, Rizal and Cavite; parts of the provinces of Laguna, Quezon and Batangas; and 17 barangays in Pampanga.

Meralco said rotational brownouts were scheduled between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m. Thursday ?due to insufficient generation power capacity of the power generation suppliers.?

National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP) said the supply deficiency in the Luzon grid was highest (about 830 MW) at around 2 p.m. Peak demand was expected to reach 7,002 (MW) while available capacity stood at only 6,169 MW.

SC can?t take heat

In Baguio City, even the Supreme Court could not take the brownouts coupled with the heat. Temperatures in the summer capital rose to 27.2 degrees Celsius on Thursday.

Baguio experienced its hottest day this year on Tuesday when the Mercury rose to 29 degrees, said Efren Aquino, a meteorologist.

When an outage struck Thursday morning, employees of the Supreme Court stopped work and left the tribunal?s building for an early lunch break.

They resumed work in the afternoon, but some justices, who held summer sessions in the city, opted to leave for the long weekend break instead, the Inquirer learned.

The tribunal?s Baguio court house is designed to keep in heat so it turns stuffy by mid-morning or mid-afternoon. Justices had relied on huge electric fans to hold sessions.

The rotating brownouts had been hitting most of Baguio between 10 a.m. and noon, when the heat starts to rise. Other parts of Baguio and Benguet have suffered brownouts between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m.

Below capacity

Data from NGCP, the agency tasked with transporting power from generation plants to power distributors, showed that several generation facilities were either still out of commission or producing way below capacity.

One of the power plants not yet in operation is a unit of the 1,200-megawatt (MW) Sual coal-fired power plant in Pangasinan.

The 647-MW Sual 2 unit of the Sual coal-fired power plant had been down since April 5, while the 350-MW Pagbilao I unit of the 735-MW Pagbilao coal-fired power facility in Quezon would remain on maintenance shutdown until April 20.

Both plants are being operated by Team Energy Inc.

Sual?s problem

Despite their best efforts, engineers failed to reconnect the Sual coal-fired power plant to the Luzon grid after making initial repairs on the ?mechanical problems.?

More problems prevented Team Energy from reactivating Sual Unit 2 so it would be connected to the grid, said Greggy Romualdez, the firm?s external affairs manager.

?Malabo (It?s not definite),? he said when asked if repairs could be completed on Thursday.

On Wednesday, Romualdez announced that Sual was already prepared to synchronize with the grid on Thursday.

?It?s a minor [glitch], but sometimes the small things are difficult to fix. Our only way to explain (the problem) in layman?s term is that there?s a problem with one of the valves,? he said.

The defect cut by half the power generated by the plant, he said.

Gas-fired plant

Modules 40 and 20 of the 1,000-MW Sta. Rita natural gas-fired power plant had scheduled major outages until April 19 and 25, respectively. The plant is run by First Gas Power Corp. of the Lopezes.

The 300-MW Malaya 1 unit of Kepco Philippines Corp.?s 650-MW Malaya thermal power plant was not running Thursday as it had no fuel.

A number of other generation facilities were also not producing as much power as they normally would.

Bauang Private Power Corp.?s 225-MW oil-fired power plant was generating only 60 MW of power due to fuel constraints, while the 600-MW Ilijan Block B of the 1,200-MW Ilijan natural gas-fired power plant could only produce 300 MW due to high circulating water line differential pressure.

With El Niño still around, hydropower facilities in Luzon were likewise not performing to capacity.

The 345-MW San Roque multipurpose facility in Pangasinan was producing 90 MW, the 246-MW Angat in Bulacan just 74 MW, the 360-MW Magat in Isabela only 90 MW, the 100-MW Binga in Benguet just 50 MW, and the 720-MW Kalayaan, 120 MW as only one 180-MW unit could generate power.

Acting Energy Secretary Jose Ibazeta said the power situation should improve soon, as some of the plants that were out of commission resume operations.

Both Ilijan and Sual should have gone back on line last night, with Sual ramping up to its full 1,200-MW capacity by today.

?For the month of May, there will be sufficient contingency and regulating reserves, there will be no planned outages, and all generators are available,? Ibazeta said.

Plant maintenance activities are usually done in April and May. Due to the May 10 elections, however, these activities were done in advance to ensure steady supply of power during the election period.

Another hydro plant

While saying that there is a need to reduce Mindanao?s dependence on hydro sources to address the power problem, the government is seeking to build another hydropower facility in Lanao del Sur.

On Wednesday, officials of Agus Hydro Power Corp. (AHPC) led the groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of the third Agus hydro power facility.

Saidamen Pangarungan, AHPC vice president, said the Agus III project would rise on the Saguiaran portion of the Agus River, which draws water from Lake Lanao.

?The Agus III project would generate 240 MW and will be constructed within 80 hectares of land in the Agus complex,? Pangarungan said.

Chinese funding

He said the project would be funded by a $750-million loan from Exim Bank of China.

?Once we get the loan from China Exim Bank, we will immediately conduct surveys,? he said.

Pangarungan said the project would affect some residents but added the government was willing to compensate them.

?We will pay the lands affected by the project,? he said.

Francisco Gudane, Agus III vice president for administration and security, said the cooperation of residents affected by the project was important to its success.

Opposition

Gudane, a retired general, issued the statement in the wake of opposition from residents of nearby Pantar town, who said they would block the construction of the new hydropower facility.

Gudane said despite the opposition, he was optimistic that the project would be completed in four years time. With a report from Richel Umel, Inquirer Mindanao



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