Probe sought on simultaneous forced outages of power plants

Published April 11, 2021, 6:00 AM

by Myrna M. Velasco

The ‘bad summer habits’ of power plants are back again, hence, the Department of Energy (DOE) and Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) are being urged to investigate the causes of the simultaneous forced outages of the generating facilities as these have been triggering spikes in electricity rates passed on to consumers.

“There are too many power plants going on outages and these generation companies and power plant owners have to be held accountable and monitored by the DOE or even the ERC,” Laban Konsyumer Inc. President Victorio Dimagiba has stated.

LKI President and convenor Atty. Victorio Mario Dimagiba

He emphasized their group has already called for a probe of such new wave of power plant outages, “but government and regulator are slow to act, and these generation companies are abusing their power without stop.”

Energy Assistant Secretary Redentor Delola indicated that “the department is already looking into it,” but there are no conclusive outcomes yet that the DOE can share publicly.

According to ERC Commissioner Floresinda Digal, the regulatory body has yet to check if there was

already an investigation carried out by their division in-charge of monitoring the spot market.

In the report of the Independent Market Operator of the Philippines (IEMOP) of the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM), it was shown that 18 power plants had been on combination of scheduled maintenance and forced shutdowns from December and some will last until May this year.

The facilities on scheduled maintenance downtimes have been: Ambuklao hydro units 1-3, Avion gas-fired unit 2, Binga hydro units 1-3, Cebu Energy Development Corporation coal plant units 1 and 3; Ilijan gas plant unit-2; Limay thermal unit 8; Magat hydro units 3 and 4; Pagbilao unit 3; San Buenaventura Power Co. Ltd. coal-fired plant; Santa Rita gas plant units 3 and 5; and Therma Visayas coal plant units 1 and 2.

The generating plants which encountered technical glitches and on forced shutdowns had been: Calaca plant unit 2 due to generator stator ground fault; GNPower plant unit 2 which has been on extended outage; Kalayaan hydro plant which is also on extended outage; Kepco SPC Power coal plant which experienced boiler tube leak; Makiling-Banahaw geothermal plant units C and D that are on economic shutdown; Pagbilao unit 2 on forced outage; South Luzon Thermal Energy Corporation coal plant unit 2 which suffered boiler tube leak; Santa Rita gas plant unit 1 with gas turbine cooling air leak; Sual unit 1 on unplanned outage; and Sual unit 2 on  extended forced outage.

When asked why too many power plants had been allowed to schedule their maintenance shutdowns on summer months given that demand would typically peak on these periods, the WESM operator indicated that it shall be the DOE and the system operator that shall be able to provide answer to that.
Robin Descanzo, chief operating officer of IEMOP, pointed out that when the rate spikes happened in at least three instances in March because of the plant outages, “ we submitted situationer-reports at least three times and we submitted them to PEMC (Philippine Electricity Market Corporation), the DOE and the ERC.”

PEMC is the governance body and has supervisory function over the operations of the electricity spot market.

The intent of those report-submissions, Descanzo said, was “for them to look deeper on the reasons why the performance of power plants ended up to be that way. But unfortunately, aside from acknowledging our advisories to them, we are not aware as to what investigations they have done so far.”