By Myrna M. Velasco
With several incidents of yellow alerts in March indicating supply tightness in the grid, the power rates to be billed by Manila Electric Company (Meralco) will increase in this April billing.
In a statement, Meralco noted that the generation charge component in the rates in particular had gone higher due to the reserve-deficient situation in the grid, which consequently triggered spot prices to go up in the last supply month.
At the same time, the Philippine peso depreciation against the US dollar contributed to the factor that increased the electricity tariffs in this billing cycle, according to Meralco spokesman Joe Zaldarriaga.
No figures have been provided by Meralco yet as of press time, with the utility firm noting that calculations are still being finalized from the billings sent by their power suppliers and reckoning it also with the other cost components like the transmission charge and taxes.
It has to be noted that in March, about four incidents of yellow alerts had strained the power system due to the unplanned outages and de-rating of roughly 10 generating units. De-rating means a plant’s level of electricity generation cannot go to the usual optimized level.
And the yellow alert situations are seen persisting this month, with Luzon grid tormented with five days of reserve scant situation from April 1 to 5 already.
No less than the Department of Energy (DOE) has set off indications that power bills will be continually on uptick for the month of May – chiefly due to similar reasons as forced outages and reduced generation capacity of power plants.
The energy department cannot provide concrete information yet on when the technically malfunctioning plants will be back in the power system and when the “yellow alert” conditions in the power grid will cease – given the fact also that the summer months generally push up demand to peak levels.
The DOE cannot also answer media queries on the penalty provision or accountabilities that the plants would have been answerable to given the recurrent forced outages in their generating assets.
As noted by Energy Undersecretary Felix William B. Fuentebella, the yellow alerts may still continue but what they have been trying to avoid as a “worst case scenario” will be the occurrence of power interruptions or rolling brownouts especially during the mid-elections culminating in May 13 this year.
The energy department has persistently insisted that “there’s nothing to worry about the yellow alerts,” but given that their cost impacts are now showing up in the electric bills, it will be time for consumers to be agitated on such inefficiencies in their electricity service.