Duterte orders strict compliance by power plants

By Myrna M. Velasco

President Rodrigo Duterte has directed the Department of Energy (DOE) to ensure that the power plants operating in the country are strictly complying with operational efficiency standards as well as on environmental laws and regulations.

He had given this instruction to Energy Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi during the recent inauguration of the 500-megawatt San Buenaventura Power Co. Ltd. (SBPL) power plant project at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Fort Bonifacio on Wednesday (October 16).

Duterte stipulated that he is directing relevant government agencies, primarily the DOE, “to remain vigilant in monitoring the compliance of power generation companies with existing laws and regulations.”

And while his administration is embracing the transition for expanded installations of renewable energy (RE) facilities in the country, the President is also calling on investors – primarily power plant project sponsors and developers – to take steps on deploying more advanced technologies even in coal-fired power ventures, chiefly those that shall be spewing lower emissions.

“I asked you to follow the lead of San Buenaventura Power by investing in the generation of clean energy. The substantial reform that this administration had instituted in the past three years – I can assure you that you’ll be able to pursue more effective and efficient business strategies, as long as you give utmost importance for the protection of our environment and the welfare of your host communities,” Duterte stressed.

The ₱56.2-billion San Buenaventura power project is the first to be equipped with supercritical boiler technology among all coal-fired power facilities in the country. This is a technology in the high efficiency, low emissions (HELE) genre which has up to 45% efficiency – compared to the more than 30% of the older technologies; and also has the potential to bring down carbon dioxide emissions by up to 25% more.

On the generation efficiency front, the operating power plants in the country were being placed under extreme public scrutiny because many of them often experience forced outages, which in turn, places the electricity system into tight supply conditions or even rolling brownouts especially in the last summer months.

Given these dilemmas, both the DOE and the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) have been keeping a close eye on them and have been enforcing measures so these unwanted forced shutdowns of generating units could be minimized if not totally prevented.

ERC Chairperson Agnes T. Devanadera opined that it is a bit confounding that both the old fleets of generating facilities as well as the ones that just reached commercial operations have been confronted with frequent unplanned shutdowns or on-and-off generation.

Taking off from that premise, the chair of the ERC indicated that they will be carrying out a study to get to the bottom as to what operational or technical circumstances have been triggering these plant outages.

“Somebody should come up with study on the outages, because based on our data – from zero to five years old, they already have unplanned outages which are very ironic,” the ERC chief stressed.

Devanadera said the Commission will likely tap a third party to carry out that targeted study – and this will then be taken as a basis for the ERC to frame the allowable outage allowances for power generating facilities.