Luzon power supply still criticalBy Amy R. Remo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Rotating brownouts will continue to threaten Luzon until next week as the available power supply reserves remained at precariously low levels, thus putting the island on yellow alert.
Yellow alert, according to National Grid Corporation of the Philippines, meant that the available reserves were insufficient to meet the grid’s required contingency of 647 megawatts and thus, any further outage, even from a single power plant, could already cause brownouts all over Luzon.
“Power supply reserves [as of yesterday] stood at 289 MW and we expect this to go up. But the supply will remain tight until mid-next week. There are, however, several bunker fuel-fired facilities that can serve the demand, but these will be expensive,” Energy Undersecretary Josefina Asirit explained.
Asirit noted that no brownouts are expected this weekend as power demand during weekends are usually lower. Next week however, Luzon will again become vulnerable to rotating brownouts should electricity demand become higher than available supply.
According to Asirit, one unit of the Sual coal-fired power plant in Pangasinan was running at a “derated” capacity of about 400 MW.
“They are now trying to check if they can already ramp up their generating capacity but they have smoke emission issues so they have to deal with that first,” Asirit said.
The facility is currently owned and operated by Team Energy, but the contracted capacities and fuel requirements are being managed by highly diversified conglomerate San Miguel Corp.
Also contributing to the tight power supply in Luzon was the shutdown of the 300-MW unit at the Calaca coal-fired power plant in Batangas due to a boiler tube leak, the repairs for which are expected to be completed by June 30, according to Asirit. However, Asirit said they were asking the owners if the repairs could be sped up so it could start providing power by middle of next week.
Asirit added that a unit at the Pagbilao coal plant in Quezon was also out due to a scheduled preventive maintenance. She noted that many facilities were starting to undergo their respective maintenance repairs during this time of the year (rainy season), when power demand usually declines given the cooler weather.
The Pagbilao facility is also owned and operated by Team Energy but the contracted capacity is being managed by Aboitiz Power Corp.
Further aggravating the situation was the low steam supply affecting the generating capacity of the Tiwi geothermal facility, Asirit added.
Meanwhile, NGCP said it was closely monitoring the situation and was committed to avert, or at least minimize, power interruptions. “NGCP does not control power supply but it is doing its best to mitigate the situation in its capacity as the power system operator,” said NGCP spokesperson Cynthia P. Alabanza.
“It is NGCP’s obligation under the law and its franchise to ensure that the grid operates at an optimum level with due consideration for safety, security and reliability. NGCP continues to be in close coordination with the Department of Energy and ensures that all the energy available to the grid is dispatched efficiently. It remains committed to providing first-class transmission services to the entire country,” she said.
However, party list Rep. Teddy Casiño said that the threat of rotating brownouts might just be a ploy to yet again jack up power rates.
“We should be wary that the so-called threat might be deliberately aimed at manipulating Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM) prices. We are calling on regulators, especially the Energy Regulatory Commission, to keep their eyes wide open and put their ears on the ground and watch out for signs of price manipulation,” the lawmaker said in a statement.
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