Bare Truth by Rose de la Cruz
Bare Truth

Something is fishy when most power plants conk out

Sep 17, 2022, 1:02 AM
Rose De La Cruz

Rose De La Cruz

Writer/Columnist

Both the Department of Energy and the Energy Regulatory Commission are conducting separate investigations on the simultaneous power plant outages and transmission line tripping that prompted the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines to put the Luzon grid on red and yellow alerts last September 12.

“The ERC will verify all the reports submitted by the NGCP and the generating companies, including the actions to get the power plants back online,” ERC said.

And Energy Secretary Raphael Lotilla vowed to verify the cause of forced outages of power plants which prompted NGCP to raise alert levels.

The National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP) is the power grid operator and the country’s transmission highway operator.

The DoE said it would do spot inspections of the affected power plants.

NGCP reported to ERC that seven generating units with a total capacity of 3,401 megawatts were on unplanned outages.

These are the Consunji family’s Calaca 2, which went on unplanned outage due to generation high vibration refinement activities while Dinginin 1 of the Aboitizes encountered a problem due to turbine vibration rectification.

Quezon Power was also out due to “primary air fan A broken inlet vane linkage.”
Sual 1 and 2 suffered “external fault” after the transmission line tripped. TeaM Energy operates the plant, while San Miguel Corp. is the independent power producer administrator.

The transmission line tripping affected the Masinloc 2 and Masinloc 3 plants owned by SMC

Over 4,500 megawatts of power generation capacity went offline in the Luzon grid, of which 3,448MW came from forced outages. Some power plants were also derated and some were on maintenance, reports said.

“We assure the public that the DoE is verifying the cause of the forced outages as there appears to be no fuel supply constraints. A team from the DOE will conduct actual physical spot checks and validate the condition of the transmission lines and the affected power plants,” Lotilla said.

He also assured the public that there is no fuel supply constraint after some power generating plants servicing the Luzon grid went on simultaneous forced outages.

ERC told to be fair

Similarly, the ERC is now being asked by ACEN Corp. that its power supply deal with Meralco should be treated the same as San Miguel’s power units.

Phinma Energy Corp., which was renamed to AC Energy Philippines and later to ACEN Corp., won in the competitive auction to supply Meralco 200 megawatts (MW) for P4.7450 per kilowatt hour (kWh) for 10 years or until December 25, 2029.

“Whatever the decision will be, we hope that our regulator as well as Meralco, will treat all suppliers fairly and consistently. We have the same contract and similar sets of circumstances, so if there is a change in circumstance in one supplier, the same should apply to others,” said ACEN President Eric Francia.

Meralco, South Premiere Power Corp. (SPPC), and San Miguel Energy Corp. (SMEC) await the decision of the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) on the temporary rate relief petitions they filed.

SPPC has asked the ERC for a rate increase from January to May, of P0.80 per kilowatt hour (kWh) from P4.30 to P5.10/kwh for its 670 MW of contracted baseload capacity from the Ilijan plant, and an average of P4/kwh, from P4.30 to P8.30/kwh, for SMEC’s 330 MW contracted baseload capacity from the Sual plant.

The joint petitions cited steep coal prices, spiraling fuel prices amid the Russia-Ukraine war, and natural gas supply restrictions from the Malampaya gas field as reasons for the temporary relief. Coal prices averaged $176 per metric ton (MT) in the second half from just $99/MT in the first half of 2021. Average coal price in 2019 and 2020 was only at $69/MT. Coal prices have recently reached unprecedented levels, as high as $440/MT, as triggered primarily by the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

In the case of the Ilijan natural gas plant, questionable and unilateral notices of gas restrictions, which caused the deration or the ceasing of delivery of available capacity, had severely affected the plant’s net generation capacity, forcing it to source for costly replacement fuel from the Wholesale Electric Spot Market.

SPPC and SMEC are only seeking partial adjustment in price so the plants can continue supplying to Meralco.

My take

Each time power suppliers and even the NGCP are asking for a rate increase, power outages are a natural recourse to twist the arm of ERC, the industry’s regulator.

Us poor consumers are the victims of this (political and mercantile) power play because they can just do what they like and we bear the consequences for their actions and decisions.

It’s either ERC grants the rate increase or we suffer blackouts or brownouts—depending on how government looks at their petition.

Seeing those people picket the Meralco on Thursday to protest the collusion between Meralco and San Miguel for such power rate hikes somehow gives me hope that there is something we can do. We can voice our protest through social and traditional media (which unfortunately are owned by the same people running our energy sector) and picket their offices and ERC’s as well to force them to look kindly and be more considerate with us. But that is A BIG WISH.


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