by Myrna Velasco – August 6, 2016
from Manila Bulletin
Two- to three-hour rolling blackouts hit many parts of Metro Manila and several key provinces of Luzon yesterday, stalling regular Friday activities and business operations starting from 10:41 a.m. to 5 p.m.
In a statement to the media, power utility giant Manila Electric Company (Meralco) noted that the areas afflicted with electricity service interruptions include Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal provinces; and parts of Metro Manila.
Specifically, the areas stricken were portions of Amadeo, Alfonso, Bacoor, Cavite City, Dasmariñas City, General Trias, Imus, Indang, Kawit, Maragondon, Mendez-Nunez, Noveleta, Rosario, Silang, Tagaytay City and parts of Liliw in Laguna. The province of Rizal was also hit sweepingly, including Angono, Antipolo, Baras, Binangonan, Cainta, Cardona, Morong, Pililla, Tanay, Taytay, and Teresa towns.
The Metro Manila areas hit by blackouts include Makati, Marikina, Quezon City, Parañaque, Pasay City, Pasig City, and Taguig.
“Manual load dropping of 2 to 3 hours up to 5 p.m. tentatively had been raised,” Meralco spokesperson Joe Zaldarriaga noted. No advisories on brownout conditions were sent to media from other parts of Luzon, primarily those that are served by electric cooperatives and other distribution utilities.
Red alert condition was declared anew yesterday by system operator National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) from 9:01 a.m. to 5 p.m. “due to tripping of (unit 2) of the Calaca coal-fired plant.”
NGCP added that Malaya thermal plant was “unable to synchronize (to the grid) due to fuel oil heater tube leak,” while Malaya unit 2’s capacity had been de-rated at 280MW. Other plants with limited generation capacity on Friday had been unit 1 of the Calaca coal-fired plant at just 156MW; as well as the San Gabriel gas plant that is still at its commissioning phase.
Energy Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi told reporters on Friday, “the DOE is now closely looking at the possible violations by these power (companies) given the current energy situation,” stressing that “these debilitating power interruptions are in total violation of the EPIRA (Electric Power Industry Reform Act).”
He reiterated the department’s request to the ERC to “investigate the persistent brownouts and to take appropriate actions, pursuant to their mandate to regulate industry players.”
The energy chief similarly noted his instruction to the department’s power bureau “to conduct technical audits/plant inspections prioritizing those that have forced outages.”
As this developed, a counterpart call for investigation in the House of Representatives on power plant shutdowns was lodged by Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Isagani Zarate.
The lawmaker wants a deeper scrutiny of “the suspicious forced and scheduled shutdowns of power plants,” noting that “the continued power alerts will inevitably lead to a power rate hike and this should be probed considering that the same circumstances were present during the 2013 Malampaya shutdown.”
Consumer advocacy group Citizen Watch had been more ferocious of its assessment of the situation, labeling the spate of power plant shutdowns as emblematic of ‘cartel-like behavior’ of the generation companies.
It thus called on the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) to immediately launch an investigation of such incidents, “and prosecute the offenders” once established that they have had misgivings in the past three weeks of distressing events in the power sector.
Citizen Watch Secretary General Wilfred Wong noted “we are alarmed over this latest round of power plant inefficiencies,” emphasizing the “similarly suspicious outages and shutdowns in November, 2013 that drastically affected supply and consequently drove up rates, to the disadvantage of consumers who will bear the brunt of the increase.”
The group then put forward their call “for a strict audit of the operational fitness of all existing power plants, which can serve as an accurate base of what is really the actual and dependable capacity in the grid.”
‘BLACKOUT’ OR ‘BROWNOUT’
Blackout is the general term for power interruptions in various parts of the world, but the term ‘brownout’ had been made uniquely Filipino, referring typically to rolling power interruptions.
A report from the Philippine News Agency said the power plants that went offline were: the 300-MW Calaca unit 2, 300-MW Malaya unit 1, 382-MW Pagbilao unit 2, 135-MW SLTEC unit 1, and 600-MW Ilijan B.
The Calaca unit 1 and Malaya unit 2 meanwhile have derated their capacities. (With a report from PNA)