Luzon on the brink of blackouts anew

by Lenie Lectura, 21 June 2015
from BusinessMirror

The Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) is crossing its fingers that there will be no unscheduled shutdown of power plants where it sources electricity, as this could result in blackouts given the prevailing thin power reserves.

Meralco said it is now preparing for the months ahead, when more power plants are scheduled for maintenance shutdown.

Based on the list provided by Me-ralco, a number of major power plants where Meralco sources its requirements will go offline until October this year. The list is trimmed down come November and December.

“These are the maintenance schedule of the power plants that we have contracts with. We hope that there will be no unscheduled shutdown of power plants coinciding with the list of scheduled maintenance,”   Meralco Utility Economics Head  Lawrence Fernandez said.

Unit 1 of the Sual power station, which is a 1,200-megawatt (MW) coal-fired power plant in Pangasinan, will be shut down from August 8 to September 6.  The capacity of each of the two Sual units is 600 MW.

A day after September 6, Sual 2 will also undergo maintenance shutdown until November 5.

Pagbilao Unit 2, with a capacity of 367.5 MW, will go offline starting July 4 up to August 2. The first unit, another 367.5 MW of power- generating capacity, will end its 29-day preventive maintenance shutdown on June 28.

The Pagbilao power station is a 735-MW coal-fired thermal power plant in Pagbilao, Quezon, and is operated by Team Energy Corp.

The 600-MW Ilijan Unit 1 is also scheduled for maintenance from June 29 to August 5. Ilijan-2 had finished its 30-day maintenance on April 14. The 1,200-MW Ilijan-combined cycle natural gas is one of the country’s largest energy producers, accounting for about 15 percent of Luzon power-grid requirement. It is operated by Kepco Philippines.

Santa Rita modules 10, 20, 30 and 40 are scheduled to go offline starting next month. Each has a capacity of 250 MW.

According to the list, Module 10 will go offline on July 14 and 15; Module 20 on July 18 and19 and from August 8 to September 6; Module 30 on July 4 and 5; and Module 40 from June 24 to 28.

Module 60 of the San Lorenzo power plant will shutdown from August 15 to 19 and from October 3 to 7. Its capacity is also 250 MW.

San Lorenzo’s Module 50, on the other hand, will go offline from  October 10 to 14. Each module can generate 250 MW.

The 1,000-MW Santa Rita and 500-MW San Lorenzo are natural-gas power plants of First Gas, a subsidiary of the Lopezes’ First Gen Corp.

Together with Ilijan power plant, these three power facilities supply about 45 percent of Meralco’s power requirement. They source gas from the Malampaya facility in Palawan.

Last in the list is the 600-MW thermal coal- fired Calaca power plant  in Batangas. The first unit, with a capacity of 300 MW, will undergo maintenance from August 22 to October 5. Calaca Unit 2, another 300 MW, is scheduled from November 16 to December 15.

“Our view is that absent any forced outages, particularly overlapping forced outages, we should have enough capacity and reserve in the system to accommodate what we won’t have due to these scheduled shutdowns,” Meralco President Oscar Reyes said.

It can be recalled that most of these power plants were supposed to undergo maintenance shutdown during summer. However, the Department of Energy had requested to move the schedule after summer so as not to coincide with the rising demand and the shutdown of the Malampaya facility for 30 days in March.

“We are hoping to get through this without any disruption in service, at least within our franchise area,” Reyes said.

Meralco is banking on the Interruptible Load Program to get it through the critical times, if and when there won’t be enough reserves.

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