2 power plants back on line; brownouts over
By Amy R. Remo, Yolanda Sotelo, Christine Avendaño
Philippine Daily Inquirer, Inquirer Northern Luzon
MANILA, Philippines—The repair of power plants that broke down a few days ago and electricity from the Visayas grid have spared Luzon, including Metro Manila, from further rotating brownouts.
The National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP) said Sual Unit 1 in Pangasinan province began generating 221 megawatts (MW) as of 6:30 a.m. Tuesday and was expected to attain its rated capacity of 647 MW by the end of the day.
The unit suffered a leak in its boiler and was shut down at 4 a.m. on Sunday to prevent more damage and longer power outages in its service areas, said Greggy Romualdez, head of the external affairs of Team Energy, the plant’s owner.
He said Team Energy was able to restore the unit earlier than the projected three to five days. The Sual power plant’s two generating units contribute 1,200 MW to the Luzon grid.
“It was a technical problem and was a result of wear and tear because the units have been running at maximum load because it is summer,” Romualdez said.
Romualdez said NGCP had asked power firms to schedule maintenance work from January to March, so that in April and May, there would be sufficient power.
In Batangas province, Calaca Unit 1 was connected to the grid at about 3 p.m. Tuesday with an initial load of 48 MW. The coal-fired power plant shut down on Friday due to technical problems. Calaca 1, owned by DMCI Holding Inc., has a rated capacity of about 200 MW.
Luzon’s power supply also got a boost from the Visayas grid, which Tuesday exported about 50 MW of its 63 MW in gross reserves to the country’s main island.
A rising water elevation at its reservoir in Laguna province helped raise the generating capacity of the Kalayaan hydroelectric plant’s third unit. It has begun providing 150 MW to the Luzon grid Tuesday. Kalayaan 3 has an installed capacity of 355 MW.
The reservoir draws water from the Laguna Lake. CBK Power Co. operates the Kalayaan plant.
A unit of the Sta. Rita plant, owned by the Lopez-led First Gas Corp. and which is undergoing recommissioning after a breakdown, may start operating by the end of Tuesday.
These developments raised the gross reserves of the Luzon grid to 370 MW as of 5 p.m. Tuesday—an improvement from the 193-MW deficit it recorded in the morning.
Two-to three-hour rotating brownouts hit parts of Metro Manila and Luzon on Monday, because of the breakdown of certain units of the island’s three coal-fired power plants—the 1,200-MW Sual facility in Pangasinan, the 600-MW Masinloc plant in Zambales, and the 300-MW Calaca 1.
Pangasinan was hit by a power outage from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Because of the improved power supply, Energy Secretary Angelo T. Reyes Tuesday said that the Luzon grid would be put back on “white alert” on Wednesday. A white alert means that the grid has adequate power supply reserves and that no rotating brownouts will occur.
However, the 315-MW Masinloc Unit 1, owned and operated by AES Corp., is still facing technical problems. It may start operating by March 7.
Metrobank’s power unit
In the Visayas, the grid’s gross power reserves increased partly due to the 43 MW from the newly operating unit of Metrobank Cebu Energy Development Corp.’s coal-fired power plant. The unit has a rated capacity of 82 MW.
Salcon Power’s Cebu thermal-power plant Unit 1 and Unit 2, which had been shut down for preventive maintenance, are now fully operational and are generating a total of 100 MW.
Shortage in Mindanao
In Mindanao, the grid continued to experience a power shortage, which jumped to 494 MW Tuesday.
“This is attributed mainly to limited available capacities of hydroelectric power plants, most of which have water reservoirs that are drying up due to El Niño,” NGCP said.
The Agus hydroelectric plants of National Power Corp. (Napocor) were reported to have only 110 MW in available capacity out of their total rated capacity of 727 MW. The 255-MW Pulangi Plant, also owned by state-owned Napocor, was running at only 30 MW.
The Iligan diesel power plant, which has been unavailable since Feb. 1, was already online and was providing 35 MW to the grid.
Reyes said the government anticipated the power shortage as early as two and a half years ago but not the severity of the drought in Mindanao.
He said the drought and the huge drop in the generating capacity of the island’s hydroelectric plants were “acts of God.”
“You want to blame somebody, blame God,” Reyes said at a briefing in Malacañang three days after he proposed to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to declare a power crisis in Mindanao so Napocor can buy or lease modular generation sets.
Later, Reyes tried to take back his “blame God” statement, saying he said it in jest.
Bring it on
Asked whether he should be held accountable for the power shortage, Reyes said “not everything is under our control.”
“If you’re looking for somebody to blame then you can blame me. No problem. I can take it. As a matter of fact I might even enjoy it,” he said. “Bring it on. Make my day.”
In Surigao City, rotating brownouts of five to eight hours greeted the Nacionalista Party as it kicked off Tuesday its presidential campaign in Mindanao.
Nacionalista Party standard-bearer Manuel Villar and his running mate Loren Legarda opposed the grant of any emergency powers to Ms Arroyo to deal with the power shortage. With a report from Michael Lim Ubac