Power outages hit Luzon; situation ‘very alarming’

by Alena Mae S. Flores – August 06, 2016 at 12:01 am

from Manila Standard Today

POWER interruptions hit various parts of Luzon on Friday as the grid plunged into red alert status due to power supply deficiency.

In an advisory, the Manila Electric Co. noted that power interruptions stretched for three hours from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. in portions of Cavite, Laguna, Quezon, and Quezon City in Metro Manila.

Portions of Rizal and other areas of Metro Manila, including Makati, Marikina, Parañaque, Pasay, Pasig, and Taguig, also experienced power outages from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.

The National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP) placed the Luzon power grid under red alert status from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday due to “insufficient power supply from generating plants.”

NGCP said a yellow alert warning would take effect at 6 p.m. until 12 midnight.

Department of Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi said the agency is already looking at the possible violations by the power utilities given the recent spate of yellow and red alert statuses issued by NGCP in the past few days.

Cusi said these debilitating power interruptions were in total violation of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act.

”We have already requested the ERC [Energy Regulatory Commission] to investigate these persistent power brownouts and to take appropriate actions, pursuant to their mandate to regulate industry players,” said Cusi.

Cusi described the power supply situation as “very alarming” as around 3,075 megawatts of power capacity went offline on Friday.

Of the capacity that went offline, 1,225 MW were unplanned while 1,850 MW were planned or maintenance outages. A total of 14 power plants went offline, seven of which were planned.

Among the power plants that had unplanned outages were Calaca 2 (300MW), Pagbilao 2 (382MW), Malaya 1 (300MW), SLTEC-( 122MW), Makban Unit 1 (55MW), Limay 5 (60MW) and Lafarge- (6MW).

Those on planned outage were Ilijan Block B (600MW), SLPGC- (150MW), Kalayaan 1 (180MW), Kalayaan 2 (180MW), Bacman 2 (55MW), San Gabriel(430MW), Sta. Rita module 20 (255MW).

In North Luzon, one hour power interruptions were noted in Ilocos Sur Electric Cooperative, La Union Electric Cooperative, Nueva Vizcaya Electric Cooperative, Central Pangasinan Electric Cooperative, Isabela I Electric Cooperative, and Cagayan II Electric Cooperative.

In Central Luzon, one- to two-hour power interruptions were experienced by consumers of Pampanga Electric Cooperative I, II and III, Peninsula Electric Cooperative-Balanga, Pampanga Rural Electric Cooperative, San Fernando Light and Power Co. and Nueva Ecija I Electric Cooperative.

In South Luzon, two-hour power interruptions were experienced by consumers of Quezon Electric Cooperative I and II.

As this developed, the consumer group Citizen Watch urged the ERC to investigate what it described as the “suspicious” trend of simultaneous outages.

“Last week, nine power plants in Luzon simultaneously shut down for emergency maintenance and several others operated on limited capacity, triggering a sharp increase in the prices of electricity and rolling outages across the region,” said Wilford Wong, Citizen Watch secretary-general.

The group noted that the closures immediately affected the spot market, where prices surged following thinning supply.

“We are alarmed over this latest round of power plant inefficiencies,” Wong said, citing similarly suspicious outages and shutdowns in November 2013 that drastically affected supply and consequently drove up rates, to the disadvantage of consumers who bear the brunt of the increase.

“We reiterate our 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,” he said.

“The information we need is not theoretical or on paper but the actual figures, which can be described as stable and reliable.”

Wong warned that a scenario similar to the regular blackouts in the 1990s could be in the offing if these efficiencies are not addressed.

“Or power prices can hit record highs again. In the long term we should ensure adequate and reliable new capacity to ensure economic growth and national development,” he said.

The group said the ERC must see if there is evidence of cartel-like behavior among the power plant operators. If there is, the government must step in immediately to stop and prosecute the offenders, it said.

Citizen Watch is a network of independent organizations that help in fighting for the interest of the Filipino consumer.