No power crisis in Luzon–Cusi
Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi on Tuesday assured the Senate that there would be no power crisis in Luzon even as it looked into whether power producers had colluded to prompt a price spike during the rolling blackouts that hit Luzon in recent weeks.
At the start of the Senate inquiry on the Luzon power situation, Cusi made the assurance upon the questioning by Sen. Leila de Lima, who asked if the country was facing “a looming power crisis.”
“I don’t think so,” Cusi said, citing “the numbers that we have, that [we have] more than the supply.”
“And just to make sure that a power crisis will not happen, we have to make sure that the plants are running and that we have reserves,” said Cusi.
He said Luzon, the country’s largest power consumer, was currently on normal alert after glitches and maintenance shutdowns of power plants caused outages across the island from July 26 to Aug. 5.
“We have sufficient supply to cover all reserves,” said Cusi, as he urged consumers to conserve energy.
“Hopefully, when other generating plants in the horizon come into the picture, we will have sufficient supply and brownouts will not happen again,” he said.
Luzon needs 13,109 megawatts of dependable power supply at any given time, Cusi said. Peak demand is at 9,700 MW, leaving a buffer of about 4,000 MW for emergencies.
Luzon, where the central government, major business districts and industrial parks are located, accounted for three-fourths (74.4 percent) of the country’s total power consumption in 2014, with usage pegged at 57,489 gigawatt hour, according to data earlier released by Senate Minority Leader Ralph Recto.
Supply fluctuations were recorded over the past two weeks as 20 Luzon power plants had to shut down for maintenance or were forced to stop operations or derate due to technical problems.
Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, chair of the Senate committee on energy, and Recto had called for an inquiry into the rolling blackouts to check the supply situation in the Luzon grid and find out if there was collusion within the industry to force a price hike.
Cusi said the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) were working together to look into that possibility.
“We’re not saying there is [collusion], we just want to make sure that it is really not happening,” Cusi said.
He had told the committee earlier: “We’re not discounting it.”
On Recto’s questioning, officials said the price spike was minimal with the Manila Electric Company estimating it at 2 centavos for an hourlong blackout.
“That spike might not be too substantial for consumers. But the point is, when will we know that?” Gatchalian said.
A DOE study showed that the simultaneous power plant stoppages in recent weeks occurred as several power plants shut down for maintenance which were postponed earlier to ensure a stable power supply during the May elections.
This coincided with unexpected glitches in other plants, Cusi explained.
ERC chair Jose Vicente Salazar said the forced shutdowns were due to a variety of technical problems that needed urgent repairs, such as boiler leaks and defective parts, and low water levels in the case of hydroelectric power plants.
Cusi said the DOE had tapped a team from the Integrated Electrical Engineers of the Philippines to conduct a technical audit of the country’s power generation, transmission and distribution infrastructure for free. TVJ
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