Laggard ERC sparks outages


The intermittent power outages affecting Metro Manila and some parts of Luzon the past few days could have been avoided had the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) acted with a sense of purpose in resolving power supply agreement (PSA) petitions.

ERC data showed that eight PSA are under process since 2016 that would have provided 1,802 megawatts (MW) of additional electricity to Luzon, while 27 similar deals are undergoing public hearings that has 2,051 MW potential electricity supply.

In total, the pending PSA could have added 3,853 MW to the power grid that far exceed the 1,500 MW highest supply shortfall during peak demand period.

The volume of electricity in the ERC pipeline is equivalent to electricity supplied by 10 major power plants.

Industry officials said the increasing number of unscheduled power plant outages may indicate that most plants had become old and unreliable, with 70 percent of them at least 15 years old.

The 27 PSA have undergone hearings, but are still without ERC decision, with contracted capacity of about 2,050 MW where 2,000 MW are in Luzon.

PSA whose proceedings have been suspended involved generating companies (gencos) that had yet to secure environmental compliance

certificates (ECC), corresponding to eight PSA with a contracted capacity of 1,800 MW, where 1,678 MW are in Luzon.

Once the gencos secure ECC from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the ERC can issue a ruling for proceedings to resume.

Long queue of deals

The unresolved PSA petitions included: a 10 megawatt deal between Clark Electric Distribution Corp and Angat Hydropower; 1,200 MW between coal-fired Atimonan One Energy and Manila Electric Company (Meralco); 12 MW between GN Power and Bohol Electric Cooperative Inc.; GN Power and Tarlac Electric Inc. (TEI) for 5 MW; a deal between Isabela Power and Isabela Electric Cooperative 1; Levan Marketing Corp. and Camarines Norte Electric Cooperative Inc. for 14.54 MW; Limay Premiere Power with Camarines Sur Electric Cooperative (CASURECO) 1, CASURECO 2 and Isabela Electric Cooperative 2 for a total of 41.5 MW; Redondo Peninsula Energy with Meralco for 225 MW; San Miguel Consolidated Power with Tarlac Electric Cooperative (TARELCO) 1, Ilocos Sur Electric Cooperative, Pangasinan Electric Cooperative Inc. for a total of 25 MW; San Miguel Energy and Nueva Vizcaya Electric Cooperative for 22 MW; St. Raphael Power Generation and Meralco for 400 MW; SUREPEP and La Union Electric Coop; Team Energy and La Union Electric Co. for 36 MW; Palm Concepcion Power and Iloilo Electric Cooperative 1 for 11 MW; Trans-Asia Oil and Energy Development Corp. and Guimaras Electric Cooperative Inc. for 3.4 MW and Unified Leyte Geothermal Energy with Camarines Sur Electric Cooperative Inc. 4 for 8 MW.

The other unsettled deals were those of Astroenergy Development in Dipolog with Zamboanga del Norte Electric Cooperative Inc. 1 for 6 MW; Astroenergy Development in Pagadian with Zamboanga del Sur Electric Cooperative Inc. for 10 MW; San Miguel Consolidated Power with Davao del Sur Electric Cooperative Inc. with 10 MW; Upper Manupali Hydroelectric with Bukidnon Second Electric Cooperative Inc. for 4.4 MW; Western Mindanao Power with the Cotabato Light and Power Co. for 5 MW; and Mariveles Power Generation with Cebu Electric Cooperative Inc. (CEBECO) 1 and CEBECO 2 for 20 MW.

Other deals have suspended proceedings such as those of Mariveles Power Generation with TARELCO 1, Aurora Electric Cooperative Inc., Pampanga Electric Cooperative Inc. 2 and Meralco for a total of 550 MW; Central Luzon Premiere Power with Meralco for 528 MW; Global Luzon Energy Development and Meralco for 528 MW; Global Luzon Energy Development and Meralco for 600 MW; Astronergy Development Mindanao and Misamis Oriental Rural Electric Cooperative Inc. for 24 MW; and Minergy Power Corp. and Cagayan Electric Power and Light Company Inc. for 100 MW.

Reserves remain thin

The Department of Energy (DoE) had raised anew the possibility of power interruptions as reserves remain thin due to several idle power plants undergoing repair or rehabilitation.
Available capacity yesterday was 10,669 MW, while peak demand was projected at 10,619 MW.

The DoE said “a yellow alert status does not result in power interruptions.”

“However, depending on system conditions, the occurrence of power outages from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. is possible,” it said.

Four power plants on forced outages are Unit 2 of SMC Consolidated Power Corp. in Limay, Bataan; Unit 1 of Team Energy Corp. in Sual, Pangasinan; Unit 2 of Southwest Luzon Power Generation Corp. in Calaca, Batangas and Unit 3 of Pagbilao Energy Corp. in Quezon province.

There are also two power plants that are running at lower than rated capacity which are Unit 1 of Masinloc Power Partners Company Ltd. that originally has a 315 MW capacity but is supplying 304 MW due to a still undisclosed problem and Unit 2 of SEM Calaca Power Corp. from 300 MW to 200 MW due after half of its condenser conked out.

With the thinning of reserves, the Energy department said the Interruptible Load Program (ILP) will be implemented from 1:01 p.m. to 4 p.m. “to avert the possibility of a power interruption during the red alert status.”

Under ILP, huge power users use their own power generators that the government in turn compensates.

Shutdowns to blame

Energy Undersecretary and spokesman Wimpy Fuentebella pointed to forced outages as the culprit for the supply shortfall.

“The problem really is the forced outages. Those are unplanned. In short, some power plants crashed,” Fuentebella said.

Fuentebella said the ERC may impose penalties due to the situation.

Power plant operators though are in agreement that their plants are already old and need repairs or replacement of spare parts.

“We also welcome the inquiries of Congress if they have inquiries in aid of legislation and all the steps immediately. The forced outages amounted to 1,500 megawatts,” Fuentebella said.
He added the impact of the outages is enough to power the Mindanao grid. Thus, they have to improve particularly the maintenance agreements though the projection of demands is intact.

“It’s really the unplanned outages that are the problem. There is no problem in the supply as we have strategies to address the problem. We are talking to Meralco and other power plants owners,” Fuentebella said.

The Luzon grid has had three straight red alerts already, while the whole month of March was plagued by yellow and red alerts as NGCP declared an unprecedented red alert two days in a row.

Many of the plants undergoing forced and unplanned outages are those which should have already undergone decommissioning, yet they continue to operate despite their inefficiencies.

With Kristina Maralit