THE Department of Energy (DOE) on Tuesday assured the public there would be enough power supply ahead of the impending maintenance shutdown of the Malampaya natural gas field, Metro Manila’s energy source.
Speaking to reporters in Malacañang, Energy Undersecretary Felix William Fuentebella said they would make sure the 20-day maintenance shutdown of the gas facility would not lead to a power shortage or a price shock for consumers.
The Malampaya gas field off the coast of Palawan will be closed for maintenance and repair from January 28 to February 18.
Fuentebella admitted power rates could go up during the shutdown, because natural gas plants dependent on Malampaya would have to use more expensive diesel to generate power.
“There will definitely be a higher rates because the issue here is a change of fuel from natural gas to diesel and diesel is more expensive than the natural gas,” he told reporters.
Natural gas costs around P4 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) while diesel costs P6 to P8 per kWh.
A staggered payment scheme will be discussed with consumer groups or the Energy Regulatory Commission, the DOE official added.
In April 2015, power rates increased by P0.27 per kWh because of the Malampaya maintenance shutdown.
Based on government simulations, consumers might see a P1.20 to P1.40 per kwh increase in their March power bills.
This will translate to a P200 to P300 spike in the bills of households that consume 200 kwh per month, said Fuentebella.
To avoid a price shock, the DOE is coordinating with energy providers to make sure the shutdown lasts only 20 days.
The Malampaya consortium is composed of Shell Philippines Exploration B.V. as operator with a 45-percent stake, Chevron Malampaya LLC, 45 percent and PNOC Exploration Corp., 10 percent.
The field supplies fuel to the 1,000-megawatt (MW) Sta. Rita plant, the 500-MW San Lorenzo plant and the 97-MW Avion plant.
Other contingency measures include running the government-owned, 470-MW Malaya Thermal Power Plant in Pililia, Rizal and the Interruptible Load Program, in which heavy power users have committed to take off 900 MW in demand from the power grid by running their own generators.
Also, monitoring and securing generation capabilities of renewable energy facilities, particularly geothermal, hydropower and biomass power plants. For example, water resources of hydropower plants will be impounded to increase generation output during the maintenance period.
Based on the projections, highest power demand is projected to reach 8,610 MW on February 9, while the lowest power reserve level is projected at 706 MW on February 16, levels that will not result in a red alert.
The DOE also urged the public to conserve energy by reducing television watching time to nine hours from 10 hours which translates to a reduction in power cost of P19.80 per month; setting to low the electric fan from high, P52.80 per month; and reducing ironing time for clothes by an hour, P44.00 per month.
WITH VOLT PALAÑA