Luzon power supply seen tightening as 12 plants go offline from August-October

by Lenie LecturaAugust 17, 2016

from Business Mirror

Power supply in Luzon will be adversely affected when  12 power plants with total capacity of 4,004 megawatts (MW) will go offline for a specified period anytime this month up to October this year.

The 12 generating units that will go offline on scheduled maintenance are from six power plants: Ilijan, Santa Rita, San Lorenzo gas plants; Sual and Southwest Luzon Power Generation Corp. (SLPGC) coal plants; and Kalayaan.

The power-generating companies that own and operate these plants have advised the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP) that they will implement maintenance work, which means these units will be shut down on certain days. A scheduled plant-maintenance shutdown is necessary to carry out unit inspections and maintenance activities.

Based on latest data provided by industry stakeholders, the following units will go offline: Kalayaan 1 (180 MW), from August 14 to 18; Ilijan Block B (600 MW) on August 4 to September 4; Santa Rita module 20 (250 MW), from July 23 to August 26; SLPGC (150 MW), from July 12 to August 26; Ilijan (600 MW), from August 4 to 28; Santa Rita module 30 (250 MW), from August 27 to October 1; Sual 2 (600 MW), from August 22 to September 27; San Lorenzo module 60 (250 MW), from October 1 to 8; Sual 1 (600 MW), from October 1 to December 1; and San Lorenzo module 50 (250 MW), from October 3 to 10.

There is no threat of inadequate power supply—at least in the areas being served by the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco).

The utility firm distributes electricity mainly in Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite and Rizal, as well as parts of Batangas, Laguna, Quezon and Pampanga.  Meralco has over 5 million customers.

“It seems that we are already off the hook. The forecast is good. It’s just that the maintenance schedule of some plants that were originally set during the election period had to be moved to a later schedule,” Meralco Spokesman Joe Zaldariaga said when asked if the latest list of plant maintenance schedules will hamper the power supply in its franchise area.

The Meralco official was referring to the simultaneous shutdown of 20 power plants that were on maintenance, on forced outage and others operated on limited capacity, for the period of July 26 to August 5. On those days, NGCP issued yellow- and red-alert status due to insufficient power reserves.

Of the 20 plants, eight went on forced outage, while 12 were on scheduled maintenance shutdown. This resulted in the loss of more than 4,000 MW of capacity. Some of these plants were originally scheduled to implement maintenance shutdown during election period, but were requested by the Department of Energy (DOE), during the time of former Energy Secretary Zenaida Y. Monsada, to move this after elections.

No to postponement

ENERGY Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi said his office is no longer inclined to postpone maintenance schedules of the power plants, as some of these facilities “cannot stretch anymore their operating schedule.”

“The DOE does not like to postpone any maintenance and we would like to follow strictly the schedule. And that is what we are going to see forward—that they are followed,” the energy chief said during a Senate committee hearing held on Tuesday.

Separately, in a text message, Cusi said any alteration in the maintenance schedule could only worsen the power supply situation.

“It’s in the past and I don’t like to comment on it,” he replied, when asked if rescheduling the maintenance of plants was a wrong move. “Postponing planned outage only complicates or compounds the problem,” he said.

For Meralco’s part, company President Oscar S. Reyes, in an interview, said the rescheduling of power-plant maintenance was a “contributing factor” to the supply deficiency recently experienced in the Luzon grid.

“No one wants a power interruption to happen. Besides the scheduled shutdown of these plants there were also the incidents of forced outage,” he said.

He believes that one of the reasons some plants experienced unscheduled shutdowns is because these are either not properly maintained or have moved their maintenance schedule to a later date.

“If you keep on moving the maintenance schedule, then the risk of forced outage is going to be higher,” Reyes said.

“The real key here is to have more power plants and to facilitate the construction of new plants, as well as the processing of permits, regulatory approvals, etc. That is the solution to all of these,” he added.

For Aboitiz Power Corp., which operates 45 generation facilities, it commended NGCP for “doing a great job  at scheduling when plants need to come on preventive maintenance.”

The generating companies submit to NGCP the maintenance schedule of their plants so that the grid operator can review this to make sure that supply will not be put at risk.

According to AboitizPower President Antonio Moraza, the recent tightness in supply experienced in the Luzon grid was also caused by unscheduled outages.  “Machines can break down unexpectedly. Recently, several at the same time,” he said.

He also noted that the scheduled maintenance was “placed at this time of the year because demand was lower and hydro plants can compensate.”

Recommendations

Cusi, during the hearing, presented the agency’s short- and long-term measures meant to prevent the recurrence of similar situations in the future.

One of the short-term solutions is to facilitate the entry of new power plants.

Cusi cited the issuance of certificate of compliance from the ERC to the 100-MW Avion gas plant, 450-MW San Gabriel gas plant, and the 82-MW Anda coal plant—with a total of 632-MW committed capacity. These plants are already ready for commercial operations.

The Energy Regulatory Commission, Cusi added, must also resolve the dispute between Meralco and Millennium Energy Inc. “This will add at least 90 MW to the Luzon grid,” Cusi said.

Other short-term measures include the streamlining of the process for granting permits and endorsements to generating companies; conduct of a technical audit; intensify the Interruptible Load Program and encourage participation beyond Meralco franchise areas; and review the reserve policy with NGCP and the distribution utilities.

For the proposed long-term solutions, the DOE wants to revisit the protocols on planned maintenance schedule and add more power-generating capacity via a proposed 200-MW new gas plant that will be spearheaded by the Philippine National Oil Co.

The DOE also wants NGCP to fast track the construction of new transmission-line projects, which include the integration of the Luzon, the Visayas and Mindanao grids, and remove line congestions.

The chair of the Senate Energy Committee, meanwhile, said the DOE needs to improve  on a lot of things.

“There’s a lot of room for improvement. For one, the DOE needs to improve its technical capability so that it would no longer outsource experts to conduct an audit in the power sector,” Sen. Sherwin T. Gatchalian said.

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