Forced outages of power plants worsened

By Myrna M. Velasco – July 7, 2019, 10:00 PM
from Manila Bulletin

Despite cooler weather temperatures that could help shave off electricity demand, Luzon grid still wobbles at “yellow” to “red alert” conditions due to worsening state of forced outages of power plants.

On Friday (July 5), unplanned shutdowns in power generating facilities had taken out 1,347 megawatts of capacity in the system – throwing the grid then into a “yellow alert” condition or that circumstance wherein there is lack of reserves that can be called upon for dispatch in case more power plants would suddenly bog down due to unwarranted technical glitches.

Six power generating units were reported to have been on unplanned outages as the work week ended, including Unit 1 of the Avion gas-fired plant; Units 1 and 2 of South Luzon Thermal Energy Corporation; Unit 2 of the Pagbilao coal plant; Unit 2 of the GNPower Mariveles coal plant; and Unit 1 of the SEM-Calaca coal plant.

The magnitude of system capacity loss due to forced downtimes of power plants had worsened anew, as that had already gone lower to the level of 760 to 980 megawatts in previous weeks.

Power plant operators, especially in the coal sector, have been sounding off “thermal stress” being experienced by their generating facilities; and some have encountered technical snags as their plants are being run to the ground just to meet increasing power demand especially during the summer months.

Most of the country’s hydro power plants had also been on de-rated generating capacity, according to the Department of Energy (DOE), such as Angat, Magat, San Roque, Pantabangan-Masiway and the Caliraya-Botocan-Kalayaan (CBK) hydropower facilities.

In addition, several coal generating plants have also reported capacity de-rating, while many renewable energy (RE) facilities, have not been delivering as much generation capacity. All of these factors then have been adding up to the tightening of supply in the grid.

On capacity de-rating concerns, DOE data showed that the RE plants were not actually performing well so far. The aggregate de-rated or reduced capacity of biomass, solar and wind plants had been logged at 487 megawatts compared to hydro’s capacity de-rating of 142 megawatts, and geothermal at 223MW.

As of Friday, the total capacity rendered unavailable to the system reached a record 3,645 megawatts – including those plants that are on scheduled maintenance, namely the 95MW Unit 2 of the Magat hydro power plant; and the 145MW Unit 2 of the San Roque hydropower facility.