SEN. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Thursday said he finds suspicious the unscheduled power plant shutdowns that nearly caused widespread brownouts in Luzon recently since they happened when power distributor Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) was set to slash its rates by around 18 centavos per kilowatt-hour as a result of lower generation cost.
Although no actual brownouts were experienced during the sudden shutdowns of the power plants early this week, Marcos explained that the shutdowns could have led to a drop in the supply of electricity, which, he said, could trigger an increase in electric bills of consumers in the coming months
The senator was referring to the unexpected shutdowns of several power plants last Monday, prompting the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines to hoist the yellow alert.
A “yellow alert” is raised when the total of all reserves is less than the capacity of the largest plant online.
The alert was hoisted on Tuesday and Wednesday after power reserves dipped.
As of Wednesday, only the 240-megawatt Calaca power plant in Batangas was able to go online out of the 10 power plants that went on the unplanned shutdowns.
Marcos said the unscheduled power plant shutdowns could tighten the energy supply and eventually increase the price of electricity as distributors like Meralco would have to source power from the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM).
Because of high cost of electricity from WESM, consumers may have to deal with bigger electric bills.
Under normal power supply conditions, prices at WESM range from P5 to P10 per kilowatt-hour (kWh)
But under tight supply, when the yellow alert is raised, WESM prices go up to around P20-P35 per kWh.
“It is unfortunate that these unplanned power plant outages have to happen at a time when consumers are anticipating lower electric bills,” Marcos said.
He added that a few power plants going on unplanned shutdowns simultaneously is acceptable but 10 plants going down at the same time is something else.
“It may be mere coincidence but even the most naïve of us can’t help wonder if there is a hidden agenda behind these outages,” Marcos said.