Meralco customers’ bills in December seen going down

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MANILA, Philippines—Customers of Manila Electric Co., the country’s biggest power distributor, can expect their electricity bills to go down in December due to lower demand and generation rates this month.

An industry source said power demand in Luzon had so far declined by more than 60 gigawatt-hours in November, due to several holidays during the month. These were the observance of the Eidul Adha on October 26, which fell on a Friday; All Saints’ Day on November 1, and All Souls’ Day on November 2.

Prices of electricity at the wholesale electricity spot market (WESM) also fell in November due to higher “dispatch” of cheaper electricity by coal-fired power plants, combined with the lower dispatch of the more expensive electricity from oil-fired facilities.

Citing data from the Philippine Electricity Market Corp., the source pointed out that the share of power generated from coal plants in the total energy mix so far in November stood at 48 percent, higher than the previous month’s 43-percent share. The share of power from oil facilities in the mix fell to 1 percent from 2 percent.

The source, however, cautioned against the uncertainties in the gas supply from the Malampaya field off Palawan, as this may reverse what could be a decline in power bills next month.

Malampaya is a highly critical source of natural gas as it provides fuel for the 1,200-megawatt Ilijan plant of Korea Electric Power Corp. (Kepco) and the 1,000-MW Sta. Rita and 500-MW San Lorenzo plants, which are owned by the Lopez-led First Gas Corp. The combined electricity generated by these three facilities, all of which are located at Batangas, comprises about 40 to 45 percent of the power generated in Luzon.

“According to Shell Philippines Exploration (SPEx), the supply of natural gas was restricted from 9 p.m. of November 20 to 3 p.m. of November 21 due to platform valve problem. With the fuel supply restriction, three First Gas units resorted to (more expensive) liquid fuel, while one Ilijan unit’s output was limited,” the source explained.

“In addition, an Ilijan unit and another First Gas unit had been under maintenance (even before the pipeline constriction),” the source added.

As of 6 p.m. of November 21, the First Gas units that shifted to using fuel oil reverted to natural gas. The Ilijan and First Gas units have been under maintenance since November 20.

“There is no set time for this maintenance to be completed,” the source noted.

For November, Meralco’s over 5 million customers paid for higher electricity bills to reflect the increases in the generation, transmission and system loss charges.

Meralco earlier explained that of the total increase of 24.5 centavos per kilowatt-hour in November, 13.5 centavos per kWh represented the increase in generation charge, 9 centavos from the hike in transmission charges and 2 centavos from a higher system loss charge.

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