House panel asked to probe shutdown of 20 power plants

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Rep. Carlos Zarate of Bayan Muna urged the House committee on energy to investigate the simultaneous shutdown of power plants that triggered power rate hikes.

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Zarate said that before the intensity 6 earthquake in Mabini, Batangas damaged six power plants, there was a confluence and overlap of announced and unannounced power plant shutdowns: the Malampaya maintenance shutdown that ran from January 28 to February 16, 2017 coinciding with the scheduled maintenance of Calaca Unit 1 and Quezon Power, and the Sual 1 unscheduled outage that resulted in a P0.66/kwh increase in electricity rates.

A month after the Malampaya gas facility resumed operations, the government announced that the Luzon grid again experienced yellow alert because of the unexpected shutdown of San Gabriel and Kalayaan Unit 2. At the same time, several power plants also went off the grid — Calaca Unit 1, Malaya Unit 1, Quezon Power, Masinloc Unit 2, GN Power Unit 2, Calaca 2 and Sta. Rita Module 10.

“If not for the maintenance shutdowns that have been in place while the earthquake struck, lesser capacity loss would have been endured by consumers. Power plants that are forced to go offline supposedly due to the quake included Avion Unit 2, San Gabriel, San Lorenzo modules 50 and 60 and Ilijan Block B, which in the first place have been on prior outage since the start of the year,” Zarate said in his resolution.

“Calaca 1, which went on shutdown since December 16, 2016 and have gone offline for four months until resuming its operations a day after the earthquake, would go offline again this summer. As admitted by the (Department of Energy), the earthquake came at a time when some power plants are on maintenance shutdown, resulting in a total capacity loss of 2,584 megawatts from the reported 1647 MW lost from the quake-affected power plants,” he added.

The Pagbilao Unit 2 and GMCP Unit 1 also went on forced outage on April 9, while some plants also were incapacitated days after the quake hit such as Magat Units 3 and 4, Limay 7 and San Roque Unit 3.

“Those plants, if operating and are not on shutdown while the earthquake struck, could have prevented the Luzon grid from reaching yellow and red alert levels. Instead, the respective unannounced shutdowns of those plants have only aggravated the situation and consumers would now be burdened both by the possibility of electricity supply continuously at critical levels and massive increases in electricity rates,” Zarate said.

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