Blackouts hit Metro, nearby provinces

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POWER interruptions hit various parts of Luzon on Friday as the grid plunged into “red alert” status due to a power supply deficiency.

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In an advisory, power utility giant Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) said power interruptions stretched for three hours from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. in portions of Cavite, Laguna, Quezon, and Quezon City in Metro Manila.

Portions of Rizal and other areas of Metro Manila, including Makati, Marikina, Parañaque, Pasay, Pasig and Taguig also experienced power outages from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.

The National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP) placed the Luzon power grid under red alert status from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday due to “insufficient power supply from generating plants.”

NGCP said a yellow alert warning, indicating thin supply, was to take effect at 6 p.m. until 12 midnight.

Violations?

Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Alfonso Cusi instructed his agency’s Power Bureau to conduct technical audits and inspections of privately owned power plants to check for violations.

He said the “debilitating power interruptions” were in “total violation” of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001.

“In view of the recurring yellow and red alert status announced by the system operator, NGCP in the past few days, the DOE is now closely looking at the possible violations by these power utilities given the current energy situation,” Cusi said in a statement.

“We have already requested the [Energy Regulatory Commission] to investigate these persistent power brownouts and to take appropriate actions, pursuant to their mandate to regulate industry players,” he added.

Consumer group Citizen Watch called on regulators to check power plants for cartel-like behavior, pointing to a “suspicious” trend of plant shutdowns.

“Last week, nine power plants in Luzon simultaneously shut down for emergency maintenance and several others operated on limited capacity, triggering a sharp increase in the prices of electricity and rolling outages across the region,” said Wilford Wong, Citizen Watch secretary general, in a statement.

The group said the shutdowns led to thin supply and caused a surge in prices at the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market, where power distributors are supposed to obtain at least 10 percent of their supply requirements.

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