Port congestion hits power projects

Posted on November 07, 2014

TWO power plants under construction have experienced delays of about two months due to congestion at the Port of Manila, though the setback will not affect the government’s target of having them in operation during the 2015 dry season, Energy Undersecretary Zenaida Y. Monsada said.

Trucks lined up bumper-to-bumper at the port of Manila -- BW File Photo
The two projects are the South Luzon Thermal Energy Corp. (SLTEC) Puting Bato coal-fired plant in Batangas and the first phase of the 10-Megawatt (MW) San Jose City I (SJC I) Power rice husk-fired biomass power plant in Nueva Ecija.

Both are still expected to go onstream by December, helping mitigate the projected power shortage next year, she said.

“Because of port congestion, there are a lot of projects that are delayed because they can’t bring out their cargoes,” Ms. Monsada said on Wednesday during a technical working group session of the Joint Congressional Power Commission (JCPC) at the House of Representatives. “We hope they can still meet their earlier targets despite this.”

Puting Bato was originally scheduled to start operations in October, while SJC I was due this month. Both were pushed back to December after components experienced shipping delays.

Seven other projects, meanwhile, are expected to enter operations ahead of schedule and will have power on tap before or during the crisis period of March to July 2015, Ms. Monsada said.

Among these are the 10-MW second phase of SJC I biomass, due by December and ahead of its April timetable; the 18-MW plant of Isabela Biomass Energy Corp., coming in March instead of May; and the 13-MW Sabangan hydro, due in June from its original August target.

The Department of Energy (DoE) is counting on a total of 241 MW of committed projects to be available this year, with an additional 18 MW coming in by the first quarter of 2015, along with 476.5 MW worth of additional capacity from plants coming in for interconnection or exiting rehabilitation to plug the projected shortfall in supply and reserves next year.

During the hearing, JCPC co-chairman Rep. Reynaldo V. Umali (Oriental Mindoro, 2nd district) ordered the DoE to recompute its power outlook projections, with Mr. Umali saying that the supply shortfall was “overstated.”

In the new outlook, only 120 MW of Interruptible Load Program (ILP) commitments were factored in as additional capacity, well short of the 348 MW accounted for by the Retail Electricity Suppliers Association.

DoE Director Patrick T. Aquino, however, said the DoE number was based on an assumption that ILP supply cannot all be committed at any given time.

The ILP compensates large electricity users with their own sources of power for running their generators in order to ease the load on the grid.

In a phone interview, Mr. Umali said the DoE is probably considering the “worst-case scenario,” which he called “really very remote,” given the sizeable number of ILP commitments and of expected additional capacity.

Succeeding JCPC meetings will be conducted this month, with the panel’s goal of having the House version of the resolution approved by the chamber by end-November. Companies have until Dec. 1 to sign up for the ILP to ease demand on the grid come crisis period until July next year.

The draft resolution being prepared by the House panel reads: “Additional generating capacity shall be preferentially sourced from the ILP, fast-tracking of committed projects, and plants for interconnection.”

The DoE has until Tuesday next week to present a recomputed supply and demand outlook which would be included in the draft joint resolution, which when approved would allow the President to tap existing capacities to plug the power shortage next year. -- Melissa Luz T. Lopez