DOE keeps close watch on ‘forced outages’ of power plants

By Myrna M. Velasco – February 25, 2018, 10:01 PM
from Manila Bulletin

With some power plants scheduled for maintenance shutdown during the summer months, the Department of Energy (DOE) indicated that it would need to keep closer watch on the “forced outages” of other generating facilities so consumers can be safely spared from rolling brownouts.

“We are really trying to avoid the forced outages. Certainly, it will not result in outages but we might experience ‘yellow alert’ conditions,” Energy Assistant Secretary Redentor E. Delola cautioned.

A “yellow alert” condition in the power grid signifies lack of reserves that may have been triggered by having several power plants suddenly taken out from the system – mainly due to forced outages of generating units.

The energy official admitted that there are power plants scheduled for maintenance shutdown during the summer months, but that will still place Luzon grid on a safe zone with estimated 1,500 megawatts of reserve capacity during the anticipated peak demand periods of summer.

Nevertheless, Delola noted they will “keep as a secret” the name of the power plants on scheduled downtime as such information can be used inordinately by industry players.

Having that information for the industry at hand, the government fears that the plant shutdowns may be opportunistically maneuvered by players “to game the market,” which in turn could result in spiked prices for electricity consumers.

“NGCP (National Grid Corporation of the Philippines) would be able to give you the schedule on maintenance program of different power plants, especially during the summer months. But we cannot release the names of the plants until the actual shutdown of their generating units would happen,” the energy official said.

NGCP is the country’s system operator that manages the dispatch of power plants – hence, the scheduling of plant shutdowns is a matter duly referred to it as dictated by policy. It coordinates such with the DOE and relevant industry players. Delola said two major developments have been giving them confidence that power supply would suffice during the critical months – the capacity addition from new plants; and the replacement of transformer at Sual power plant unit 2 that could then bring its generation to stable and normal capacity.

“On summer months as projected, we will not encounter any problems as long as the new plants will come on-line,” Delola said.

He is referring to the 150MW unit 2 of the Limay coal-fired power plant of SMC Global Power Holdings; and the 400MW Pagbilao plant of the Aboitiz Group and TeaM Energy Philippines (a joint venture of Japanese firms Tokyo Electric Power Company and Marubeni Corporation).

“The total additional capacity for Luzon grid will be 594MW. One plant will be on-line this first quarter; and the other, by second quarter of this year,” he said.

For unit 2 of the Sual facility, the energy official emphasized that it will be ramped up at its rated capacity of 647MW starting the end of this month following the replacement of its transformer that was damaged last year.

For Visayas, the capacity addition will be the 340MW Toledo coal-fired power plant; while Mindanao is definitely not a problem because the grid still paces on overcapacity mode.