• Pattern of forced power plant shutdowns since 2011: lawmaker

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    The suspicious simultaneous and forced shutdown of power plants that leads to higher electricity prices has long been in practice, a lawmaker said on Sunday.

    Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate said there has been “suspiciously synchronized power outages” for the last two years.

    Zarate said in October 20 to 26, 2011, the Malampaya natural gas plant had a scheduled maintenance shutdown, during which power-generation companies switched to more expensive fuel.

    Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) bought its electricity from three independent power producers (IPPs):  Quezon Power Philippines Ltd. (QPPL)’s coal-fired facility, the 1,000-megawatt Sta. Rita plant, the 500-MW San Lorenzo natural gas plant, and state-owned National Power Corp.

    Both Sta. Rita and San Lorenzo plants are owned by the Lopez-led First Gas Holdings.

    The same thing happened June to July in 2012, Zarate said. When the Malampaya plant had a maintenance shutdown, the Calaca and Sual plants suffered outages, followed by another plant in Pagbilao owned by Team Energy, which also owns Sual, and the Malaya thermal power plant in Rizal.

    During that period, Meralco also raised its rates.

    “Now these power utilities are singing the same old tune again. The Malampaya facility—supposedly scheduled for a maintenance shut down only once every two years – is now being shut down almost every year, and, as always it is also accompanied by unscheduled outages of other power plants” Zarate said.

    “As can be seen, this [Malampaya outage] has become an annual event and the consumers are always the victims and at the losing end. This is nothing but a modus operandi of a cartelized industry and the Aquino administration is not doing anything as it is apparently becoming its protector instead,” he added.

    At House Committee on Energy hearing last week, a Department of Energy official revealed there were at least nine power plants that went on forced outages: Sual, GN Power 2, Sta. Rita Module 20, Sta. Rita Module 30, Ilijan 2, QPPL, Sual 1, Calaca 1, and Masinloc 1.

    The plants’ outage coincided with the maintenance shutdown of Malampaya, which was scheduled from November 11 to December 10. This resulted to jacked-up prices at the wholesale electricity spot market (WESM), soaring from P13.47 to P33.22 per kWh.

    Zarate blamed the Energy and Power Industry Reform Act (Epira) for the unabated, skyrocketing power prices since its implementation in 2000.

    “The privatization and deregulation of the power industry is actually a boon only to the corporate players but a bane and a scourge to the people. With Epira, private corporate profits are given absolute priority over consumer welfare and economic development, while the state steps aside,” ended Zarate.

    JHOANNA BALLARAN

     

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