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Consumer group laments denial public disclosure on power supply and demand situation

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Consumer advocacy group Laban Konsyumer Inc. (LKI) and its President Atty. Vic Dimagiba recently called out “the high WESM charges which will be leading to the increased power rates burdening customers and consumers this month of April. There are too many power plants going on outages and these generation companies and power plant owners have to be held accountable and monitored by the Department of Energy or the DOE, or even by the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC). Our group has actually already been calling for investigations on the outages by power plants since 2019 but government and regulator are slow to act, and these generation companies are abusing their power without stop.”

The simultaneous bogging down of power plants and reduction of output from the Malampaya gas field have pushed prices in the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM) to hit record spikes in recent days despite
lower demand resulting from the reimposition of the enhanced community quarantine in the “NCR-plus bubble.”

Based on a report from the Manila Bulletin, power industry sources said more than 3,500 megawatts (MW) were taken out from the system due to the power plant outages, leading to the much-anticipated increase in electric bills this April. And with interruptions still persistent, another surge in power bills may be expected in May.

Energy Sec. Alfonso Cusi said that Luzon encountered grid disturbance last Monday due to the outage of the GNPower Dinginin and the Pagbilao coal plants’ first generating units. Cusi noted that the incidents led to automatic load dropping of some areas in Metro Manila and Luzon, particularly in the mid-afternoon.

Atty. Dimagiba said that “this April, power rates will be brought up because of the higher WESM charges, indications from the market show more than two pesos per kilowatt-hour of increase, and higher costs in the spot market. Even if charges from PSAs and IPPs went down as assumed initially, because of the increase of WESM, the cost of power increases potentially. In fact, all WESM has to do was keep their price levels at the same level and consumers would have experienced lower rates because of possibly lower PSA and IPP charges. But unfortunately, due to power plant outages, WESM costs did not behave accordingly, which will expectedly lead to higher generation charge that consumers have to pay to generation companies during the extended pandemic and ECQ in the future.”

LKI pointed out that “higher WESM charges also affect the bills of electric cooperatives, thus it is the responsibility of DOE and ERC to act on these plant outages as not only DUs like Meralco are affected, but also the electric cooperatives across the country, and all their consumers.”

Meanwhile, around 440MW was automatically dropped from the franchise area of the Manila Electric Company (MERALCO) due to the plant trappings.

Sources also pointed out that Shell Philippines Exploration B.V. (SPEX),
Malampaya’s operator faced a “gas restriction” dilemma, which caused gas-fired plants to operate on a de-rated capacity.

Also the data from SPEX showed that plant outages had been aggravated by restrictions in gas supply, which reduced the power producing capability of the Ilijan gas plant from 1,200MW to just 345MW. Located in Batangas City, the Ilijan plant is connected to Malampaya via an undersea pipeline.

Related to this, it will be recalled that in a letter to Director Mario C. Marisigan of Electric power Industry Management Bureau, of the Department of Energy (DOE), Consumer advocacy group Laban Konsyumer Inc. (LKI) wrote and said the group “is calling for the urgent need to release the Current 2021 Weekly Forecast post-2020 pandemic data of supply, Demand and Reserve requirements and alert and inform all power plants, transmission company, and distribution utilities and consumers .”

LKI said “The summer season is on us. This summer, all types of consumers will use more electricity compared to last year. All consumers should be on guard on prices as well as consumption behavior. And it has already been a year with community quarantine, so the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines or NGCP should have enough data already to make new forecasts for this summer.”

LKI President Atty. Vic Dimagiba pointed out “The Grid Operating and Maintenance Program or GOMP is the 3-year schedule of planned outages of power generating plants as well as transmission facilities, to ensure energy security in the country, accountability and transparency and reliable operation.”

Dimagiba explained “In this regard, the Department of Energy issued Department Circular 2020-02-0004 captioned Providing Guidelines on the Planned Outages of Power Plants and Transmission Facilities and the Public Posting of the Grid Operating and Maintenance Program. The copy of the Circular can be accessed at www.doe.gov.ph.”

LKI continued “Very important and mandatory, there shall be no scheduled maintenance during the peak quarters, i.e. April, May, June, except hydroelectric plants. We noted that the current GOMP covers the

period 2020-2022. The 2021 Weekly Demand, Supply and Reserve Profile which was prepared in October 2019 is obsolete as they were pre- pandemic 2020 data. The GOMP can be accessed at https://ngcp.ph/doe.”

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