DOE probing possible ‘sabotage’, collusion among power firms—Cusi

The Department of Energy (DOE) on Thursday assured it is investigating if there is indeed possible collusion among power distribution firms to ascertain if this is the cause of the recent rotational brownouts that occurred in Luzon.

DOE chief Alfonso Cusi told the Senate Energy Committee the agency is already investigating these power plants and have asked the assistance of the Department of Justice (DOJ), the Philippine Competition Commission (PCC), and the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) to determine if there was collusion.

“The loss of supply from major power plants happened simultaneously. That is the ultimate case,” Cusi said during the hearing.

“If found to be so, proper charges shall be filed against those who are responsible,” the Energy chief added.

Cusi said they are not discounting allegations of sabotage “which is now being looked into by our people.”

“But while we haven’t finished the investigation, we can’t determine what really happened,” the DOE official said.

The DOE has repeatedly blamed the forced and unplanned outages of power plants and the lack of ancillary services owned or operated by the private sector to the series of Red and Yellow alerts that plagued the Luzon grid for three straight days.

The agency also said the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) failed to comply with the required firm ancillary service contracts.

Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, chair of the Senate Energy Committee, and one of the senators who sought a probe on the recent power outages, pointed out that the rotating brownouts early last week has resulted to more than a hundred million pesos economic losses in Meralco’s franchise area alone.

Gatchalian said the May 31 and June 1 rotational brownout experienced in different parts of the country affected close to 705,000 customers in two days.

“This is just only in the Meralco franchise. We ran estimates and valued that the two-day loss equated to P116-million in economic losses. This is only within the Meralco franchise, we’re not even talking about the economic losses experienced by the electric coops,” he pointed out.

Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) chief Agnes Devanadera said they are strictly monitoring and reviewing the weekly reports submitted by the generation companies (Gencos) in compliance with its directive regarding reliability performance indices and equivalent outage days per year of generating units.

“Based on the examination of our technical group, there are Gencos that have breached the maximum allowable unplanned outage days as of April 2021,” Devanadera told Senate probers.

Sen. Risa Hontiveros said she is concerned over the employees who are currently working at home, students on online classes and most importantly, the government’s vaccine roll out program could be affected by the rotating brownouts.

Hontiveros also expressed concern that power outages could again hit the country during next year’s May 2022 elections.

“I am very worried about the situation because less than a year from now, we will have our national and local elections. The elections are automated throughout the country that is why we cannot afford to have power outage even in one town or city,” Hontiveros said.