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Power generators welcome probe into shutdowns amid collusion fears

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PHILSTAR

By Victor V. Saulon
Sub-editor

THE country’s biggest association of power generation companies said its members are ready to answer questions about the status of their plants as calls grow louder for a probe into a possible collusion after deficient energy reserves resulted in rotational brownouts last week.

The Philippine Independent Power Producers Association, Inc. (PIPPA) said during the weekend that its member generators were working doubly hard to resolve the power supply problem, which it attributed to the increase in consumer demand.

“PIPPA members are prepared to answer any and all inquiries as to the status of their plants. In the meantime, we would like to request for the public’s patience and trust that these technical difficulties will be fixed in the soonest possible time,” it said in a statement.

The group described itself as an association of 28 companies engaged in power generation that account for 82.8% or 13,549.4 megawatts (MW) of the grid’s installed capacity. Its members have power plants all over the Philippines.

“All our member generators, especially those who are encountering technical difficulties, are fully transparent and in constant coordination with the lead agencies with the submission of real time data and updates in order for these agencies to predict and come up with an adequate energy supply and reserve,” PIPPA said.




It said members with forced or unplanned outages were trying to address the problem and were committed to be fully functional as soon as their issues are resolved in compliance with the directive and mandate of the Department of Energy (DoE).

Its statement came after Senator Sherwin T. Gatchalian, who heads the Senate’s energy panel, called for an investigation into the unexpected brownouts that hit several towns and cities in Luzon. He said the power failure came after the DoE had given its assurance that there was ample supply of electricity reserve throughout the dry season.

“The brownouts felt by our constituents in Luzon these past few days are totally unacceptable,” he said.

“If there’s enough power supply, then how come that there are towns and provinces in Luzon that are experiencing rotational brownouts,” Mr. Gatchalian said.

“Definitely, heads must roll this time. We owe it to the power consumers to give them accurate information on the power situation in the country,” he said.

During the weekend, consumer advocacy group CitizenWatch Philippines also asked the DoE and the industry to explain the power supply situation, after areas in Luzon suffered from power outages.

“The issuance of two consecutive red alerts was more than those issued in the previous years. In 2018, the Luzon grid was not placed under any red alert status while in 2015 and 2017, only one red alert was announced,” said Hannah Viola, convenor of CitizenWatch Philippines, in a statement.

The DoE expected power demand on Saturday to ease, but another plant went on an unscheduled outage, reducing available capacity and prompting the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP) to issue a “yellow alert” notice. On that day, available capacity was at 10,326 MW while peak demand reached 9,933 MW.

The alert notice means the grid operator was already tapping into its contingency reserve after its dispatchable reserve was fully spent. Both reserves are equivalent to the biggest operating plant online — the two identical units of the power plant in Sual, Pangasinan each with a capacity of 647 MW each.

South Luzon Thermal Energy Corp. (SLTEC) was able to bring back its unit 1 online on Saturday, helping ease the power shortage after it achieved full load at 8:50 a.m. with a net output of 121 MW, its operator said. The plant, with an installed capacity of 135 MW, was out since March 20.

Ahead of SLTEC’s return, another plant went on an unscheduled outage at 12:41 a.m. The 70-MW unit 1 of Panasia Energy Holding Inc.’s power plant in Limay, Bataan was shut down because of “tripping from actuation of turbine overspeed relay,” the DoE said.

No date was given so far as to when it will be back online.

On Thursday last week, the 150-MW unit 2 of SMC Consolidated Power Corp. (SCPC) in Limay, Bataan was shut down because of a boiler tube leak. It is expected to be back on April 16.

The three other plants on unscheduled outage are the 647-MW unit 1 of TeaM Sual Corp. in Sual, Pangasinan; the 150-MW unit 2 of Southwest Luzon Power Generation Corp. (SLPGC) in Calaca, Batangas; 420-MW unit 3 of Pagbilao Energy Corp. in Pagbilao, Quezon. They will back on April 18, April 21, and April 16, respectively.

As of Sunday, the DoE said the country’s power system was operating as normal even as 1,437 MW in capacity was out.

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