PHILSTAR

THE Department of Energy (DoE) said Thursday that the Luzon grid has returned to normal and that it expects no further rotating brownouts, though it does plan to investigate claims of “sabotage” behind the simultaneous outages that took out enough power capacity to warrant three days of red alerts on the grid.

Early Thursday, the DoE characterized the Luzon grid as being in “normal system condition” since there are sufficient reserves to handle projected demand. The department said demand has fallen due to the “adverse weather conditions” arising from the transit of tropical storm Dante (international name: Choi-wan).

“Barring any sudden increase in demand, no rotational outages are expected to happen within the day,” the DoE said.

Forced outages took out capacity amounting to 1,372 megawatts (MW), due to the unavailability of unit 2 of the Pagbilao coal-fired plant; units 1 and 2 of the GNPower Mariveles Energy Center’s coal-fired plant, and unit 2 of the Calaca coal-fired plant. Meanwhile, planned outages took down 435 MW as three units of the San Roque Power Corp.’s hydroelectric power plant remained offline.

Reduced output from power plants totaled 2,126 MW, including 484 MW from KEPCO Ilijan Corp.’s gas-fired plant which remained unavailable. Some 1,642 MW from other coal, oil-based and renewables plants were deemed “de-rated.”

Iyon naman sinasabi sa kung (may) sabotage sa pangyayari, ipinatitignan na po natin sa ating mga tao and I have also asked ang tulong ng ERC (Energy Regulatory Commission) and ng Philippine Competition Commission to look into the allegation. (Our people are looking into the claims of sabotage. I have also asked the help of the ERC and PCC to look into the allegation),” Energy Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi told the President’s spokesman Herminio L. Roque, Jr. during a briefing Thursday.

He said that the department will wait until the investigation concludes before addressing the sabotage claims.

Mr. Roque had asked whether the department had any information on any shutdowns may have been deliberate as demand for power peaked this week.

Mr. Cusi said this is the first time in five years this has happened. “We had rotational brownouts, and it’s because power plants with a capacity of more than 2,000 megawatts (MW) broke down all at once,” he said.

He also apologized for the rotating outages.

The National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP) declared three consecutive red alerts on the Luzon grid earlier this week.

The DoE said that it is “working closely” with enforcement agencies, including the ERC, Philippine Competition Commission (PCC) and Department of Justice, to investigate the activities of the energy industry.

DOJ, SENATE PANEL TO PROBE OUTAGES
Justice Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra said Thursday that he will instruct the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to prepare for a possible investigation of generation companies.

According to reports, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Alexei B. Nograles told the DoJ to work with the DoE to determine whether there was any collusion to take capacity down, which he said amounts to “economic sabotage.”

“We have not received any formal directive from the Palace regarding this matter, but I will alert the NBI to stand by and prepare to investigate,” Mr. Guevarra said Thursday.

Senator Sherwin T. Gatchalian, who chairs the senate committee on energy, said separately that he has filed a resolution seeking an investigation into the grid’s supply situation.

The resolution notes that the DoE “gave assurances that the country will not encounter major challenges or alerts in its supply,” referring to the department’s earlier projections that the Luzon grid will not likely to be placed under a red alert during the dry season.

“Despite the guarantee of DoE, some areas of Luzon experienced rotational brownouts on May 31 and June 1 due to red alerts… Even with all these hearings on power supply shortages and the measures that DoE has proposed to address the problem, the issue has been a recurring problem in the past five years,” according to the resolution, a copy of which was obtained by BusinessWorld.

“It is crucial to hold the DoE to account, being the agency responsible for ensuring security of energy supply… and its failure to address power supply shortages since 2016.”

There is no schedule yet for the Senate Committee on Energy’s investigation, Mr. Gatchalian’s office said.

ERC ORDERS GRID OPERATOR TO EXPLAIN PROJECT DELAYS

On Thursday, the ERC has directed the NGCP to explain the causes behind the delays of its transmission projects.

“Earlier this year, the ERC issued 33 orders to the grid operator, Commissioner-in-charge Floresinda G. Baldo-Digal told BusinessWorld on Viber Thursday.

“We have directed the NGCP to explain in detail the changes in the timeline and the events or activities that led to the modification of the transmission projects’ completion. The NGCP’s explanation will shed light on the status and reason/s for the delay of the completion of the 33 transmission projects that we have already approved,” ERC Chairperson and Chief Executive Officer Agnes VST Devanadera was quoted as saying in a statement emailed to reporters.”

In February, the NGCP reported that the Mindanao-Visayas Interconnection Project (MVIP) may not be completed by the end-2021 target date after damage to the submarine cables.

The completion date of the MVIP had been pushed back due to travel restrictions. — Angelica Y. Yang with Bianca Angelica D. Añago