DOE mulls requiring publication of planned power plant shutdowns

by Myrna Velasco – August 22, 2016

from Manila Bulletin

The Department of Energy (DOE) is keenly contemplating on policy reversal that shall finally require publication of all scheduled power plant maintenance shutdowns, instead of just restricting the information to them and system operator National Grid Corporation of the Philippines.

“The question on the publication of shutdown schedules of power plants is very relevant…we are currently debating about it,” Energy Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi has noted.

He said the contentious point of discourse is whether or not policies or rules would be breached with such policy enforcement or if this also triggers an act promoting ‘opportunistic behavior’ among the industry players.

“I am in favor of it (publication of schedules), the only thing is:  am I violating anything because of competitive behavior concerns? Because if they would know the schedule of plant shutdowns, they (industry players) might take advantage of that to game the market,” the energy chief stressed.

He similarly emphasized probable security concerns being transgressed which is a concern periodically raised by the power system operator.

Other power markets in the world set policies on publication of their scheduled plant downtimes – and so far, these were not known to have been triggers of ‘market gouging’ operations.

The power generation companies (GenCos), via the Philippine Independent Power Producers Association (PIPPA), previously lodged with the DOE their plea to have their shutdown schedules published to avoid simultaneous maintenance activities that have been causing massive capacity loss in the system.

Often, power plants undergoing maintenance shutdowns also encounter technical snags while being re-synchronized to the grid, and forced outages turn out be part of the ‘normally occurring sequence’ hours or days after repair works at the generating facilities.

These circumstances could aggravate tightness in supply, thus, it is not advisable that power plant maintenance schedules are done simultaneously or on overlapping timeframes.

Luzon grid has over 13,443 megawatts of nameplate capacity and about 12,014MW of dependable capacity. At peak demand of 9,500 to 9,600 ranges, Cusi opined that supply should have been enough to meet demand if not for the sporadic forced outages of power plants.

“Technical glitches in power plants happen, that cannot be avoided. But what we are trying to emphasize here is that there should be replacement power (in the contracted capacities of the distribution utilities) and reserves that must be procured by NGCP,” Cusi said.

The rest of the year will still be pummeled with scheduled power plant shutdowns, hence, the energy department cannot still fully assure if the series of yellow and red alert conditions in the grid will no longer recur.