By Jed Macapagal | Malaya


A consumer group has called on the need to fasttrack  the establishment of more plants in the country as a red alert level on power supply was raised yesterday in the Luzon grid.

Power demand exceeded available supply yesterday due to the outage of several power plants totalling a capacity of 1,352 megawatts (MW) and caused power interruptions in various areas in Luzon.

The National Grid Corporation of the Philippines  (NGCP) lifted the red alert yesterday at 4:46 pm but yellow alert was up until 9 p.m. as the peak demand was at 10,140 MW against available capacity of 10,422 MW.

Vic Dimagiba, convenor of Laban Konsyumer Inc. (LKI) said the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) and the Department of Energy (DOE) “ cannot keep dragging and slow-footing and allow the system to collapse due to indecisiveness.”

“It is my understanding that petitions are pending before the ERC… , notably baseload power plants that will add capacity to the system,” said  Dimagiba.

Dimagiba said ERC  has to step up now and decide whether  to reject or approve the power plants that will provide the necessary power supply in times of red alert “so we can avoid the same situation from happening in the future considering that no new plants are coming in.”

He said generators are wary about investing in new power plants because of too much red tape and regulatory uncertainties, he added.

Dimagiba said the entry of more power plants can help  bring down power rates especially in the wholesale electricity spot market.

“There should be contingency plans in place for unscheduled outages due to technical problems and/or force majeure. We observed that there is where the problem occurs, when there is a sudden, simultaneous shutdown of power plants and the prices in the spot market go up,” he added.

At least seven power plants are in the pipeline but whose power supply agreements (PSAs) with a  distributor are  yet to receive approval of the ERC.

These include the 225 MW from Redondo Peninsula Energy, Inc.; 1,200 from MW Atimonan One Energy, Inc.; 400 MW from St. Raphael Power Generation Corp.; 528 MW from Central Luzon Premiere Power Corp.; 528 MW from Mariveles Power Generation Corp.; 70 MW from Panay Energy Devt. Corp. and 600 MW from Global Luzon Energy Development Corp.

The said PSAs did not undergo competitive selection process.

Under this process, distribution utilities are allowed to sign an agreement with a generation company only after calling for and receiving at least two qualified bids from other generation companies. Utilities are only to negotiate directly with other power suppliers only after at least two failed bidding procedures.

According to the DOE, among the plants that went on outage yesterday are all coal power plants including the 645 MW unit 1 of Sual, 150 MW unit 2 of Southwest Luzon Power Generation Corp., 420 MW unit 3 of Pagbilao and the 135 MW unit 1 of South Luzon Thermal Energy Corp.

NGCP said  among the distribution utilities that were affected by the supply disruption are Benguet Electric Cooperative, Isabela I Electric Cooperative, San Fernando Electric Light and Power Co., Quezon I Electric Cooperative, Camarines Sur III Electric Cooperative, Albay Power and Energy Corp.and the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco).

In Meralco’s franchise area alone, affected areas were portions of Bulacan – including Malolos city, Bustos, Plaridel, Pulilan; parts of Cavite such as General Emilio Aguinaldo, Amadeo, Imus, Bacoor, Noveleta, Kawit, General Trias, Alfonso, Mendez-Nuñez; majority of Quezon City especially Batasan, Fairview, Bago Bantay, Novaliches, San Jose, San Francisco del Monte, Pugad Lawin and Kaunlaran.

Other localities that were affected in the company’s franchise area are Malabon, Navotas, Caloocan city, Valenzuela, Tagaytay city, Las Piñas and some parts of Laguna including Biñan, Bay, Sta. Cruz, Sta. Rosa, Calamba, Liliw, Nagcarlan, Pila, San Pedro and Cabuyao.

Amid the said power situation, Meralco has implemented its interruptible load program (ILP), a demand management relief scheme which encourages customers with large electricity consumption to run their own generator sets whenever supply of electricity falls short of projected demand.

The company said that it managed to de-load 174.3 MW of consumption via ILP. However,  the costs of fuel that will be used by participants of the said solution will be shouldered by consumers.

The DOE still assures  there will be enough power supply for the election period despite the experienced red alert, citing that its Energy Utilization Management Bureau is campaigning for a more efficient use of energy “not only to incur more savings, but also to ensure uninterrupted electricity services this summer season.”

Murang Kuryente Partylist said the DOE and the ERC must make power generation firms to be more accountable in such situations.

“It’s time for DOE and ERC to make someone accountable for these outages, which will surely result to increase in power rates in the coming months. The DOE, the ERC and Meralco are hiding behind complicated figures and rationalizations for their power outages, while Filipinos keep on suffering,” said Gerry Arances, the group’s nominee.