Entire RP power grid unstable – National Grid Corp
By Donnabelle Gatdula
The Philippine Star
MANILA, Philippines – The entire Philippine grid – not just Mindanao – has turned out to be unstable, with power plants bogging down one after another.
In a report, the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP) said reserves in the Luzon and the Visayas grids normalized on Tuesday only to get depleted again yesterday.
The Luzon grid succumbed yesterday to generation deficiency of 236 megawatts as the 3150MW Masinloc 1, the 180-MW Calaca 2, and the 260-MW Sta. Rita 30 plants remained inoperational. With available capacity of 6,585 MW, the Luzon grid’s peak demand reached 6,821 MW.
The NGCP said hydroelectric power plants are running with limited capacities due to the steadily falling water levels at reservoirs.
The NGCP said one of the three units of Kalayaan hydroelectric plant is unavailable due to the low elevation of Caliraya Lake. Each unit of the plant generates 152MW.
The lake’s water level is 286.16 meters or below the 286.50 meters required to keep all three units of Kalayaan running. The critical water level at the reservoir is below 286 meters.
The Magat hydroelectric plant, the NGCP said, is generating only 30MW from the normal 90MW.
The Visayas region, which is importing power from the Luzon grid, recorded a deficiency of 25MW with available capacity of 1,325 MW as against peak demand of 1,160 MW.
Mindanao’s peak demand stood at 1,334 MW as of yesterday but available capacity was only 836MW.
Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes said they are continuously monitoring the grids as electricity supply remains erratic.
“We have to watch the water level especially that Kalayaan is a hydro generating plant and it’s generating about 700MW,” Reyes said on the sidelines of the Philippine Economic Briefing yesterday.
“So that’s huge. And if the water levels continue to come down then we might be experiencing some difficulties in Luzon,” Reyes said.
He admitted that Luzon is still vulnerable to power outages because hydropower plants have been operating below capacity due to lack of water brought about by the El Niño phenomenon.
The Police Regional Office of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, meanwhile, said the blackouts are greatly hampering operations.
“We’ve suffered so much. No Internet or fax machine operating at all and you cannot even run the computers or charge your cellular phones. It has so much affected our operations especially when you are rushing important reports,” spokesperson Police Senior Inspector Annie Rose Alvarado said.
With the unstable power situation, rotating blackouts swept across Metro Manila and nearby provinces serviced by the Manila Electric Co. or Meralco.
Meralco said it implemented blackouts in Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Quezon.
Reyes, meanwhile, assured businessmen at the forum that measures are being worked out to ensure energy security and sustainability.
The programs, he said, include more oil, gas, and coal explorations and development, greater utilization of renewable and environmentally friendly alternative energy resources and technology, strict enforcement of energy efficiency and conservation, electrification of far-flung towns, upgrading transmission and distribution systems and maintaining a competitive energy investment climate, among others.
Reyes noted that the greatest challenge is to boost the existing capacity across the country by 16,550 MW between 2010 and 2030.
Critics of the administration believe granting President Arroyo emergency powers is meant to justify government’s doing away with stringent bidding and procurement rules.
“Emergency purchases don’t have to pass Commission on Audit scrutiny. That’s what Sen. Noynoy Aquino has been saying: a power shortage is being forced on us,” Liberal Party vice presidential candidate Sen. Manuel Roxas II said in Filipino. Aquino is LP’s standard-bearer.
He said the Arroyo government was not interested in buying the necessary power equipment at the proper time so that it could later go around procurement laws.
Rep. Liza Maza of the party-list group Gabriela, for her part, expressed suspicion that the power shortage in Mindanao may be artificial.
“It seems that the power crisis is being artificially staged to force a situation where emergency powers are invoked and transparency in biddings and negotiations can be foregone,” she said.
Maza, a senatorial candidate under the Nacionalista Party, cited reports quoting officials of electric cooperatives in Mindanao as questioning the pronouncements of the authorities in Manila that there is power shortage in the island.
“Emergency powers include the ability to dispense with the requirement of public bidding and enter into negotiated contracts as what the Ramos administration did with the so-called independent power producers,” she said.
Maza said a power shortage scenario might also be related to the May 10 elections.
She said power outages would mean that the balloting process might be disrupted.
“Is this a dry run for a failure of elections?” she asked.
Senatorial candidates of the opposition Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino also voiced opposition to granting Mrs. Arroyo emergency powers.
“They should have addressed that (power crisis) long ago. Emergency powers will be subject to abuse by the people in the present administration. I think there are enough laws,” Agusan del Sur Rep. Rodolfo Plaza, said.
“They really want to control the May 10 elections. They did not present facts, figures and when and what the level of power needs. There is no basis for that. You give the emergency powers and there will be no elections,” former Negros Occidental Rep. Jun Lozada said for his part.
“They have to define exactly what they want. If it is specific to electricity crisis, so it should be so defined. We were burned in the past. Present the exact proposal,” former senator Francisco Tatad said.
PMP standard-bearer former President Joseph Estrada also vowed to oppose the granting of special powers to Mrs. Arroyo.
“They might take advantage of the emergency powers and continue the corruption because there will be no bidding, like what had happened during the administration of my predecessor. He asked for emergency powers that is why the rate of electricity right now is very, very high,” Estrada said referring to former President Fidel Ramos.
He also warned that a revolt might erupt in the event of “failure of elections” in May as a result of power outages. – With Jess Diaz, Jose Rodel Clapano, Delon Porcalla, Rose Tamayo-Tesoro