Plant outages, low Malampaya output spur power rate spikes

3-Pagbilao

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. 

GNPower Dinginin, which is run by Aboitiz Power Corporation, began operations before the Holy Week.

Meanwhile, around 440MW was automatically dropped from the franchise area of the Manila Electric Company (MERALCO) due to the plant trippings, according to MERALCO Vice President and Head of Utility Economics Lawrence Fernandez. 

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. 

Data from SPEX showed that plant outages had been aggravated by restrictions in gas supply, which reduced 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.

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