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Monday, May 20, 2024

ERC sets inquiry into power outages

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The Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) is set to investigate the cause of the simultaneous outage of power plants, having a combined capacity of 3,233.68 megawatts, which led to the red and yellow alerts on April 16.

The ERC said it is closely monitoring and evaluating reports from the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) and generation companies (Gencos) that went on outage on Tuesday.

The alerts are still in place and set for certain hours, as issued by the NGCP, the grid operator, due to insufficient supply and/or insufficient reserves in the said grids.

“The ERC recognizes the profound implication of the current power plant outages on grid integrity and reliability. As a matter of course, we collate information and review the reports from the affected stakeholders to come up with a preliminary analysis of the cause or causes of the incidents,” said ERC chairperson and chief executive Monalisa Dimalanta.

“Based on our findings, we will formalize the investigation to determine compliance or non-compliance by the relevant stakeholders and implement appropriate measures to impose penalties on any lapses and address issues that may have contributed to the adverse situation,” Dimalanta added.

Dimalanta said the ERC is also continuously monitoring the impact of the outages on prices at the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market, the trading floor of electricity.

ERC said a total of 3,233.68 MW was out of the system as of 16 April 2024. As of 10:00 am April 18, around 1,179.52MW of capacity has been restored, leaving a total of 2,054.16MW still on outage.

On the other hand, a total of 890.51MW was out of the Visayas system as of April 16, 2024 while around 617.79MW is still on outage as of 10am of April 18.

The regulator said that while the primary focus remains on the immediate restoration of capacity, the ERC is mandated to also review the performance of stakeholders responsible for the reporting of requirements, maintenance and technical standards, as well as observance of allowable outage limitations.

Dimalanta said it is critically important to ensure a steady and adequate power supply that meets consumer demands and the grid’s regulating requirements.

“We have directed power plant operators to submit to the Commission their estimated timelines for the resumption of their operations, and we will continue to monitor their timely compliance. We are fully aware of the difficulties brought about by these power disruptions and affirm our commitment to a thorough investigation,” she said.

Regardless of current efforts to stabilize capacity, the NGCP said Thursday that yellow alerts in the Luzon grid may continue until the end of the week due to the outage of the Pagbilao coal power plant in Quezon province.

The Pagbilao 1 and Pagbilao 2, with a capacity of 382 megawatts, stalled due to a boiler tube leak.

“I think right now, our projection remains at yellow alert for the Luzon grid until the end of the week. For the Visayas, the yellow alert will persist until next week and that’s assuming, of course, that no additional power plants will go offline,” NGCP spokesperson lawyer Cynthia Alabanza said in an interview with One News PH.

Alabanza said the projects the NGCP has been criticized for not finishing are all energized, thus allowing the transfer of power generation capacity.

“Last year we energized the 500kw backbone from San Jose to Hermosa here in Luzon… the full capacity for what it was intended is already there. So, we do not have congestion,” she said.

Alabanza said power plants in Luzon that are needed to be dispatched are being dispatched.

She said NGCP recovered less than one percent of costs incurred for the three major transmission projects due to a “regulatory lag.”

NGCP has spent more than P320 billion to improve the transmission system over the last 15 years, she said. Alabanza also said the grids needs more capacity, such as Panay.

“We’ve always advocated that the islands, especially in the Visayas, should not rely on interconnection for its own requirements. Each island should be sufficient. The interconnection is just to facilitate better services for the cooperatives and the NGCP when needed,” she said.

She said NGCP is a transmission service provider and depends on the available capacity from the power plants. “When power plants go offline, we really have no control over them,” she said.

Meanwhile, Senate Energy committee chairperson Senator Raffy Tulfo on Thursday raised concerns over the low power supply that would fail to meet the demands of consumers in Luzon and Visayas areas.

Tulfo notes the alarming number of power plants going offline since more than 30 power plants are offline or operating at a reduced capacity.

This was amid assurances by Department of Energy (DOE) Undersecretary Felix Fuentebella last February that the country has enough power supply during El Niño.

According to Tulfo, he has already been coordinating with the DOE and NGCP to ensure that our power plants are dependable, especially during the summer. He also stressed the need for intensive monitoring of the DOE, NGCP and generation companies of power plants to avoid recurring brownouts.

He said the power outage will have adverse effects on health and the country’s economy.

The DOE also ordered distribution utilities and electric cooperatives to implement interruptible load programs.

This is where large establishments such as factories and malls will use their own generators to reduce electricity consumption from the grid.

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