ARTA’s independent probe on forced outages of power plants sought

Published June 26, 2021, 9:00 AM

by Myrna M. Velasco

An independent investigation by the Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA) is being sought on the forced outages of power plants that caused the May 31-June 1 rotating blackouts as well as hikes in electric bills this June.

The proposal was put forward by the advocacy group Laban Konsyumer Inc. (LKI); which indicated that ARTA could be the entity that can scrutinize the reported power plant outages without it having biased on any party.

Following the never-ending blame game and finger-pointing proclivity of both the Department of Energy (DOE) and Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC), LKI President Victorio Dimagiba noted it’s about time that another entity should lead fact-finding on those recurring power plant technical breakdowns.

“The ERC should defer to ARTA to ensure the probe by an impartial judge,” the president of the consumer advocacy group has emphasized.

Dimagiba recommended that the ARTA investigation process shall include the 17 power plant owners that have been issued earlier with notices by the ERC on alleged breaches of their allowable forced outages.

He qualified that the ARTA independent investigation shall be on top of the probe being carried out by the DOE –which is being done in collaboration with the ERC, Philippine Competition Commission and the Department of Justice.

Further, LKI recommended that the DOE be included as a subject of the ARTA investigation — because the department has been remiss in approving a request relating to power supply agreement that should have added 200 megawatts of capacity to Luzon grid.

“The DOE should be part of the entity to be investigated…there is that pending for approval (by the DOE) of a request for PSA extension of 200MW to mitigate high WESM (Wholesale Electricity Spot Market) prices for the rest of the summer,” Dimagiba stressed.

The ERC previously stated that it has been pursuing its own probe on the violations committed by power plant owners and operators when it comes to the allowable forced shutdowns of their electric generating facilities.

The DOE persistently highlighted in series of Congressional investigations that the severely strained supply in Luzon grid had been due to the simultaneous forced outages of power plants – leading to capacity loss of 2,000 to 3,000 megawatts from the power system.

Forced outages in power facilities are frequent during peak demand-months of summer, but despite the repeat of such cycles, authorities in the energy sector have not established any conclusive report yet as to the real causes of the incidents.

The ERC, in particular, is also viewed to have very ‘infirm appetite’ when it comes to establishing the accountability of the generation companies or even in enforcing penalties against them relative to plant outage-delinquencies.

 
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