Part 2 of 2
4. The Onerous Guaranteed Payments for Downtimes in the PSA in Main Grid
These power plants will predictably blame technical reasons for the outages. These are however the “effects” and not the “root causes”.
It might surprise many people but the solution to these Power Plant shutdowns are not technical but contractual and financial.To explain, the PSA’s in place now and new ones being signed are still the old 1990’s era, BOT type contracts where the IPP is guaranteed his full capacity fees and fixed costs even if his power plant is down for maintenance and not available to deliver power.
These are in the form of maintenance downtime provisions in the PSA where the IPP is excused from delivering power. Typically 45 to 60 days per year for coal plants. There is nothing wrong with legally excusing them from delivering power when their power plant have technical problems or need to be shutdown for preventive maintenance.
What is wrong is continuing to pay them full capacity fees and fixed costs during the shutdown period. And these payments are passed on to the consumers as part of AGRA, the new name of the old reviled Purchased Power Adjustment (PPA).
These give financial incentives to IPP’s for being down or expressed another way, there is no financial benefit to them to AVOIDing and minimizing downtimes. If these IPP’s are not paid during their downtimes and only paid when they are actually providing a service to the consumers, their financial dynamics will change, giving them the incentive to make investments in making their power plants reliable.
Still another way of expressing this guaranteed payments whether down or not, is that electric consumers are being charged for 12 months of service but only getting power from the IPP for 10 months, especially for base-load plants. This is so onerous to the Filipino consumers.
Even for those power plants with “Reserve power contracts” and providing “ancillary services”, they should be paid capacity fees and fixed costs only when they are validated to be on line and available to provide the power if called. Not when they are down.
Downtime allowances in PSA’s should only be an excuse from delivering the service but not for guarantee of continuing capacity payments even if they are not performing a service. We are now in the Build Operate and OWN era, no longer BOT, where at the end of the contract, the power plant is Transferred to the distribution utility.
Ironically these onerous guaranteed payments for downtime allowances are still in the seven (7) midnight Meralco PSA’s signed with subsidiary MeralcoPowerGen. And even in the 460mw expansion of Mauban coal plant with partner EGAT. We suspect that this contract provision is among those trade secrets that Meralco had petition to keep confidential from the public and ERC is agreeing to be hidden from public scrutiny.
These onerous provisions must be prohibited in the Guidelines for procurement being drafted by the DOE, ERC, and NEA for being patently anti-consumer.
Until this is cured, there will always be downtime anomalies because there are financial incentives to being down or no financial benefit to avoiding downtimes.
(see our Article on Outdated PSA Provisions Need to be Updated, matuwid.org December 6, 2018)
5. The Onerous Guaranteed Payments for Downtimes in the PSA in the Off-Grid
In the Off-Grid areas these guaranteed payments during downtimes similarly cause brownoutsand also the bloating of the missionary subsidies in hundreds of millions. In the Island of Palawan, President Duterte no less complained about the brownouts and the Electric Coop was blamed. It turned out 35% of the brownouts resulted from a power supply contractor whose temporary generators have been unreliable and another 35% resulting from outdated and incompleted transmission lines service of Napocor that have failed to keep up with the demand of the fast growing tourist island.
What is aggravating the brownouts are also contractual in nature. The Electric Coop agreed to pay a power provider for 6mw reserve capacity but it can only be used by the power provider when his regular engines are down for maintenance. The Coop is paying P5 million a month extra or P60 million a year but if the Palawan grid is short of power it cannot call this unit into service because it is only to back-up the contractors own units. So why is the Coop and why is missionary subsidy being paid for 6mw that can only be used by the contractor to meet his 20mw contractual guarantee and cannot be called by the Coop for his own use? And ERC had approved this contract provision.
On the subject of off-grid areas, the Philippine Grid Code and the Small Grid Code issued by the DMC of ERC, do not provide for maximum size of units to be installed in the island as a % percent of total demand. The maximum size of each generator determines the amount of reserve capacity that the island needs to have. Ideally technical studies and small grid experience show that this should be limited to about 10% of system demand. In a 50mw island, the maximum generator size should be about 5mw. For reserve capacity known as N-1 and N-2 is based on the extra units equivalent to the size of the largest unit. Hence the larger the disproportionate sized generator, the larger the reserve units that the consumers will pay for.
In a 50mw island N-1 reserve will be 5mw and n-2 would be only 10mw.
If the largest unit is undefined and allowed to be say 8mw or 15mw coal boiler, the reserve unit will be equivalent to 15mw and not 5mw at higher costs to the consumers.
6. Long Term Solutions
a. Obviously, guaranteed payments during downtimes must be prohibited from PSA’s. In fairness to consumers,payments must be provided only for delivered service. There must be a disincentive to being down and a financial incentive to make their power plants reliable with minimum downtime.
This is the root cause of the downtimes and Alerts especially those occurring during inopportune times like summer. This can be incorporated in the government guidelines for procurement and made part of the CSP template.
b. Distribution Utilities like Meralco who are the contracting parties to the Power Supply Agreements, must be required to have continuing Generating Capacity Management Coordination and Monitoring. It is their duty to their consumers.
c. The DOE can have a permanent monitoring and coordinating function for the synchronization of maintenance downtime schedules specially avoiding the critical months of summer and Christmas season.
d. The technical terms of the bidding for future supply under CSP must include a prescription on the maximum sizes of the generating units that can be offered. This must be in the Small Grid Code, in the NEA Guidelines, and in the DOE and ERC Guidelines. This is Not only for reasonable size and cost of reserve capacity but also for better systems adjustments for load variations in these off-grid islands.
In many islands, the load variation is only 5% of peak demand. In a 50mw island, the load variation is 2 to 2.5mw. It is hard and uneconomical for an 8mw reserve engine to fill this in without disrupting the other smaller engines synchronized to the island grid.
Yellow and Red alerts will recur in the country unless we take steps to address their real causes. Of course Meralco and their cartel members would like us all to believe that the solution is more supply. And that to address our fears of brownouts we must forget about the anomalous terms of their seven (7) midnight contracts and have it approved.
There needs to be a compromise in the national interest. The matter has been allowed to drag on for so long and we are playing into the hands of the involved proponents.
We agree that some resolution are now urgently needed but Meralco needs to also compromise. Their negotiated rates need to be made reasonable and the terms of the PSA cannot be onerous. The ERC needs to see that. Better half of it is converted to LNG. Given the urgency of the power supply, we wonder why the Supreme Court does not see that it is to the national interest to decide on the legality of the ERC extension of the CSP implementation, one way or the other.
Why should the electric consumers be always on the losing end? We pay when they are down, we suffer when there is a power shortage, and we still pay for the consequent spikes in the WESM prices. When will we have a savior?
A Blessed Holy Week and Happy Easter to Everyone!
MatuwidnaSingilsaKuryente Consumer Alliance Inc.
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