GenCos, DOE plot strategy on power supply for summer

By MYRNA M. VELASCO – February 29, 2020, 10:00 PM
from Manila Bulletin

The country’s power generation companies (GenCos) are closely coordinating with the Department of Energy (DOE) to address power supply dilemmas during the summer months, including the recurrent dilemma of forced outages of generating facilities.

Anne Estorco-Montelibano, president and executive director of the Philippine Independent Power Producers Association, Inc. (PIPPA), said “the generators are each in touch with the DOE and have been in constant coordination with it for the summer months.”

In the summer supply-demand outlook that had been laid down by the energy department so far, it is being plotted that if brownouts will occur, it will be due to the forced outages or unplanned shutdowns of the power plants.

As noted, the DOE has not tangibly factored in any probable forced outages of power plants yet on its summer supply outlook, hence, the department is also being nudged to “be transparent” on this very critical matter because this is among the main triggers of brownouts and rate spikes in previous years.

The energy department, in a recent press briefing, simplistically indicated that summer power supply will be “enough” from March to June – but that is granting the power plants will not experience unplanned shutdowns – which so far, had been a remote possibility if anchored on historical trends, especially so since the facilities are “being run into the ground” and that the government has not been instituting policy on power plant retirements despite the ages of most of the country’s power fleets.

Laban Konsyumer, Inc. (LKI) President Victorio Mario Dimagiba particularly cited the manifest absence of power GenCos in the briefing convened by the DOE to explain the dynamics of supply and demand once the scorching months of summer will kick in.

“We lament the absence (in the press conference) of the members of PIPPA, and the latter should have been present to inform consumers of the power supply and maintenance schedule during the summer months,” Dimagiba stressed, emphasizing that “plant outages do happen especially in the summer months.”

And while the various stakeholders in the electricity supply chain had already given their forecasts and prognosis on anticipated tight supply from March to June this year, conspicuously absent in the whole loop had been the power generators.

In past incidents of yellow and red alerts in the power system – that at times descended into rotating power interruptions, it had always been the GenCos that had been rapped for alleged collusion – often associated with the simultaneous shutdowns of power plants.

Last year alone, Luzon grid wobbled from 51 incidents of yellow alerts and 15 instances of red alerts – with both conditions entailing shortfall in power reserves, but the gravity of the second is worse because if additional capacities will be suddenly taken out from the system, brownouts will ensue.

Given the silence being evoked by the GenCos, Dimagiba pressed that the DOE should at least be transparent with the scheduled maintenance shutdowns of the electricity generating facilities.

“If the PIPPA members will not submit a voluntary disclosure of the power plants maintenance schedules, then the maintenance schedule is nevertheless available to the DOE,” the LKI and former trade undersecretary has stipulated.

Dimagiba has in fact asked the DOE to make available to the public the information on the downtime schedules for the next three (3) years of the power generating plants – given that unavailability of their capacities would have major implications on the interest of the public that they serve.

“The maintenance schedule of the power plants are not commercial and proprietary information,” Dimagiba opined, with him spotlighting that “the disclosure of such information promotes accountability and transparency and serve the purpose of checks and balances amongst the stakeholders.”

With such information at hand, he emphasized that “all types of consumers – whether industrial, commercial and residential – can better prepare their operational plans during the period.”