New power plant may save Luzon from more brownouts

Published June 12, 2021, 8:00 AM

by Myrna M. Velasco

Consumers in the Luzon grid will be spared from suffering brownouts in the coming weeks if the first 668-megawatt unit 1 of the GNPower Dinginin coal-fired power plant in Bataan can come back on-line by next week, according to the Department of Energy.

DOE Director Mario C. Marasigan of the Electric Power Industry Management Bureau (EPIMB) indicated that “as far as schedule is concerned, they are committing to have the GNPower Dinginin plant by June 14, so we are expecting them to come in.”

With the scheduled resumption of the plant’s testing and commissioning phase this Monday, the GNPower Dinginin facility will be adding up supply to Luzon grid at a time when it will be critically needed as supply thins out while demand climbs due to wider re-opening of economic activities.

Senate Committee on Energy Chairman Sherwin T. Gatchalian further noted that “Dinginin will be our saving grace hopefully. Let’s keep our fringes crossed. If they are true to their words, then we will not experience brownouts.”

But since the power generating unit is still not on full commercial operation phase, it has been cautioned that its supply of power to the grid would still be on ‘wobbly state’ in the coming weeks, which is a natural occurrence for all electric generating facilities that are still at pre-commercial operation state.

The power plant’s commercial operation date (COD) is targeted by August this year, based on its certificate of compliance (COC) filing with the Energy Regulatory Commission. This project is a joint venture of Aboitiz Power Corporation and AC Energy Corporation of the Ayala group.

In a statement to the media, GNPower Dinginin affirmed that the facility’s unit 1 “is undergoing testing and commissioning,” but the ERC already allowed dispatch of the maximum design net capacity of the plant at 668MW.

GNPower Dinginin Ltd. Co. Vice President Roberto B. Racelis Jr. qualified though that testing and commissioning activities had been temporarily suspended since May 31, primarily due to a tube leak problem.

“This technical issue was communicated to the ERC on June 3, 2021,” Racelis conveyed, while emphasizing that the company has been “earnestly working at remedial measures to resolve the issue and enable unit 1 of the Dinginin plant to resume testing and commissioning and augment supply to the grid with its ability to make available 668MW.”

Racelis stressed “we are working closely with our government and industry stakeholders in making sure this capacity is provided to the grid without delay.”

He added “despite the unprecedented challenges during the pandemic, GNPower Dinginin has continued construction activities throughout while maintaining strict protocols to ensure the health and safety of the thousands of workers employed.”

The GNPower Dinginin executive narrated though that “the current international travel ban is delaying the arrival of urgently required specialists from various equipment suppliers, which consequently delays the necessary construction and commissioning works that can only be undertaken by those with specific expertise to complete power plants under construction in the Philippines.”

Racelis further pointed out “the delay in mobilizing technical field advisors, operating and maintenance, construction and performance and testing staff will result in a day-for-day delay to the completion of the entire GNPower Dinginin project.” The second unit of the plant with same capacity of 668MW is targeted on stream by summer months next year.

Given the country’s power system conditions, the company concurred with the proposal of some lawmakers during a June 4, 2021 hearing in Congress “to maximize all available capacity that can now augment supply and reserves for grid stability,” especially at this time when “operating margins are thin,” and there is also a critical need to help the country regain economic traction from the brunt of the lingering pandemic. ###