ERC tightens benchmark for power plant outages

Published December 19, 2020, 7:00 AM

by Myrna M. Velasco

As power plant outages have been tormenting consumers not just of brownouts but also of electricity rate spikes, the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) has tightened the rules and the benchmark on the allowable service interruptions in electric generating facilities.

Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC FACEBOOK / MANILA BULLETIN)

For power facilities equipped with pulverized coal technology, the regulatory body prescribed ‘unavailable’ or outages that shall be equivalent to 44.7 days – comprising of 27.9 days of planned outages and 16.8 days of forced or unplanned outages; while for coal plants running on circulating fluidized bed technology, allowable outages shall be for aggregate 32.3 days with 15.4 days of planned outages and 16.9 days of unplanned outages.

Combined cycle plants, on the other, are permitted for total outages of 20.2 days with 12.5 days for planned outages and 7.7 days for forced outages; gas turbine plants to have total outages of 29.2 days (6.5 days of planned and 22.7 days of unplanned outages); diesel shall be allowed unavailability of 19.0 days (5.0 days of planned and 14 days of forced outages); geothermal to have total outages of 19.7 days (6 days of planned and 13.7 days of unplanned outages); and hydropower facilities could be out from the system for 29.9 days (23.1 days of planned and 6.8 days of unplanned outages).

Further, oil-fired generating facilities are given a total of 58.6 days of outages with 30.8 days of planned shutdown and 27.8 days of unscheduled outages; while biomass are allowed aggregate outages of 39.7 days with 32.7 days of planned shutdowns and 7.0 days of forced outages.

According to the ERC, the modified benchmarks on allowable outages on power plants are in keeping with the industry’s goal to ensure that the generating facilities would strive for more efficient and reliable operations, so the consumers could be spared from unwanted brownouts especially during the peak demand months of summer.

ERC Chairperson Agnes T. Devanadera said “the regulatory body of the electricity sector needs to ensure that generating plants are well-maintained and perform within the benchmark or standard per technology for all generating units.”

The stricter operational parameters for power plants, she added, “will not only ensure reliable supply but will also stabilize the price of electricity due to less or non-exposure to the volatile prices in the spot market.”

The ERC specified that the rules for the ‘interim benchmark’ on power facilities “shall apply to generation companies with conventional and non-variable renewable energy (VRE) generating plants that are connected to the grid; and these shall include embedded generating plants with an aggregate capacity of 5.0 megawatts and above.

The goal of the revised rules, according to the ERC, is to “set a reliability performance benchmark per technology for all generating units to lessen outages and ensure predictable power supply and rate.”

Additionally, the new reliability guidelines must “promote accountability of generation companies; the system operator; and the transmission network provider to achieve greater operations and economic efficiency.”

In keeping with the stricter benchmarks, the ERC noted that monitoring of the actual planned and unplanned outage days of all generating units must also be judiciously enforced.

The ERC thus instructed the system operator (SO) and the transmission network provider (TNP) to “utilize the allowable planned outage days “ in its preparation of the Grid Operating and Maintenance Program (GOMP).

And in cases where the SO and TNP will be using different benchmark for outages, the transmission firm will then be required to “provide a report as to the reason for such deviation which will be incorporated in the quarterly submission of the GOMP to the ERC.”