ERC requires operators to explain unplanned outage of power plants

by Lenie LecturaAugust 2, 2016

from Business Mirror

Power-plant operators, whose generating facilities unexpectedly shutdown last week, were ordered to report in detail to the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) the reasons for the outage that led to the thinning of power reserves in Luzon.

Under ERC Resolution 4, Series of 2015, generating facilities are required to submit a report to the ERC within 48 hours from the occurrence of an unplanned outage.

“For this particular reason, the ERC has reminded the plants that went on outage to submit the detailed reasons for the outage. Once the reports are submitted, the ERC will evaluate,” ERC Spokesman Rexie Digal said in an interview.

The period to evaluate, she added, “depends on the submissions to be made” by the concerned power firms.

As of press time, the commission said it was still verifying which among the power firms have submitted a report.

The forced outage of several power plants, coupled with scheduled maintenance of some power plants, resulted in insufficient power supply, thus prompting the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP) to place the Luzon grid in yellow and red alerts last week.

A yellow alert is issued by the grid operator, NGCP, when contingency reserve is less than the capacity of the largest synchronized unit of the grid. In Luzon this is equivalent to 647 megawatts (MW), or one unit of the Sual power plant.

A red alert, meanwhile, means that there is severe power deficiency.

“The series of yellow/red alerts is the longest streak [seven days, or from July 26 to August 1] since April 2004, when Meralco [Manila Electric Co.] first adopted the ILP [Interruptible Load Program],” Meralco Utility Economics Head Lawrence Fernandez said in an interview.

Under ILP, customers with large loads, like commercial establishments, will be asked to operate their own generator sets if the grid operator projects a need to augment generation capacity in the Luzon grid. Through this, the aggregate demand for power from the system will be reduced to a more manageable level, helping ensure the availability of supply during the season.

Whenever yellow alert is issued, Meralco advises its ILP participants to be ready to use their own generator sets should the need arise.

As of Tuesday morning, the Department of Energy (DOE) reported that the 647-MW Sual Coal-fired Power Plant (SCFPP) Unit 2, the 360-MW Kalayaan Units 3 and 4 are already back online, while the 300-MW Calaca Coal-fired Power Plant Unit 2 and the 280-MW Malaya Thermal Power Plant (MTPP) Unit 2 are expected to supply additional power to the grid within the day.

NGCP, meanwhile, declared having a normal situation for the three main grids—Luzon, the Visayas and Mindanao—as of Tuesday morning.

The DOE is also closely coordinating with NGCP and the generators on the status of the plants that are still out, including the 302-MW GN Coal-fired Power Plant Unit 1; the 382-MW Pagbilao Coal-fired Power Plant Unit 2; and the South Luzon Therma Energy Corp. Units 1 and U2, with a combined capacity of 245 MW; and the 180-MW MTPP Unit 1; while the 180-MW Kalayaan Unit 2 and the 250-MW Santa Rita Natural Gas Power Plant Unit 2 are on planned maintenance shutdown.

As of 10:30 a.m., the available capacity in Luzon grid stood at 9,705 MW, while peak demand is projected at 8,542 MW, leaving the grid with more than 1,100-MW reserve capacity.

Meanwhile, it is anticipated that power rates may increase due to insufficient power supply.

“As a general rule, if supply is down and demand is up, it may drive prices,” DOE Spokesman Felix William B. Fuentebella said.

When sought for comment, Fernandez said there “may be upward pressure on market prices this August.” The Meralco official was referring to electricity prices in the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM).

“This is because of the successive yellow and red alerts experienced by the Luzon grid. This may eventually affect September generation charge,” Fernandez added.

In areas hit by Typhoon Carina, NGCP reported that linemen were able to repair and completely restore the Magapit-Santa Ana 69-kiloVolt (kV) line, which serves the Cagayan II Electric Cooperative (Cagelco II) and its franchise area in Buguey, Santa Ana, Santa Teresita and Gonzaga in Cagayan province since Monday afternoon.

The National Electrification Administration also said there are towns and barangays that were scheduled for restoration in the franchises of Cagelco and Ilocos Norte Electric Cooperative.