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Rotating brownouts bring early ‘calvary’ in Luzon

The Luzon power grid was placed under red alert for the third successive day on Friday after an unexpected outage at a power plant in Limay, Bataan province, on Thursday.

National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP), the power system operator, said the red alert covered a 13-hour period from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., with demand outstripping generating capacity.

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Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) said parts of Manila, Quezon City and Bulacan province experienced rotating brownouts.

On Thursday, the 150-megawatt Unit 2 of SMC Consolidated Power Corp. in Limay went on forced outage due to a suspected boiler leak, adding pressure to an already tight supply situation across Luzon, NGCP said.

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Aside from Meralco’s franchise areas, NGCP said rotational brownouts may be experienced in the provinces of Benguet, Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya, Ifugao, Quirino, La Union, Bataan, Albay, Quezon, Laguna, Batangas, Camarines Sur, Camarines Norte, Pangasinan, Sorsogon, Tarlac, Nueva Ecija, Aurora and Pampanga.

Prudence

“[The scheduled rotational brownouts] may be canceled if system condition improves, such as if actual demand falls below projections,” NGCP said. “[We] encourage everyone to exercise prudence in using electricity.”

Sen. Grace Poe on Friday expressed dismay over the rotational brownouts as well as the dry taps in Metro Manila and nearby provinces.

“No water, no electricity, no internet. This is already calvary, and it’s still a week before Holy Week. Penitence came early for the public,” said Poe, who chairs the Senate committee on public services.

She warned power companies they faced penalties if they provided poor service to their customers. There are provisions in the companies’ contracts requiring them to provide quality service, Poe added.

NGCP said that as of Thursday morning, available capacity was 10,220 megawatts while projected peak demand was pegged at 10,334 MW.

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According to the Department of Energy (DOE), five power plants—with a combined capacity of 1,502 MW—have experienced unplanned outages due to technical problems and needed repairs.

Aside from the SMC power plant, these include Unit 1 of Team Energy and San Miguel’s Sual Plant (647 MW), Unit 2 of Southwest Luzon Power Generation Corp. (150 MW), Unit 3 of Team Energy and Aboitiz Power’s Pagbilao plant (420 MW) and Unit 1 of Ayala Group’s South Luzon Thermal Energy Corp. in Batangas (135 MW).

Scheduled maintenance

NGCP said a total of 827 MW was out of commission in the Luzon grid as power plants were undergoing scheduled maintenance. In addition, the 300-MW Unit 2 of DMCI’s Calaca plant is running at only 200 MW due to a condenser problem, it said.

But a party-list group slammed power distributors and Meralco for the rotating brownouts, describing the situation as an “intentional and engineered power crisis” that was meant to push the companies’ “onerous power supply agreements (PSAs).”

“We feel that the power shortage is just a mere excuse for the [DOE] and the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) to succumb to pressure coming from Meralco and power generation companies to help them push for their onerous PSAs,” said Gerry Arances, renewable energy advocate and nominee of Murang Kuryente party-list.

Last week, the group petitioned the Supreme Court for a temporary restraining order on the PSA applications of  Meralco and seven other respondents.

Arances said the PSAs, if left unchallenged, would raise the generation charge of Meralco by at least P2 per kilowatt-hour for the next 20 years.

The PSAs include proposed Meralco contracts with Redondo Peninsula Energy Inc. (225 MW), Atimonan One Energy Inc. (1,200 MW), St. Raphael Power Generation Corp. (400 MW), Central Luzon Premiere Power Corp. (528 MW), Mariveles Power Generation Corp. (528 MW), Panay Energy Devt. Corp. (70 MW) and Global Luzon Energy Devt. Corp. (600 MW).

Energy Undersecretary Felix William Fuentebella said the DOE had asked the companies whose power plants went under forced outage to explain what happened to their facilities.

‘Collating, validating’

“We are collating and validating the submissions [explanations from power companies] and we are ready to submit [our findings to] and work with Congress, the ERC and the Philippine Competition Commission in addressing this matter,” Fuentebella said.

Meralco spokesperson Joe Zaldarriaga said the company was working with the energy industry to manage the supply situation. —WITH A REPORT FROM DAPHNE GALVEZ

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TAGS: brownouts, DoE, grid, Luzon, MERALCO, NGCP, power grid, rotating
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