• Power supply improves, but plant shutdowns loom

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    THE Department of Energy (DOE) on Wednesday assured the public the country’s power supply is improving, but warned that plant maintenance shutdowns are scheduled between now and September.

    Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla said that the power supply in the Visayas has gone back to normal after plants that were placed under maintenance have been fully operational.

    At the same time, Petilla said the power supply in Luzon is also normal.

    “Luzon is normal and we are not on yellow alert at this point,” he added.

    As of Wednesday, the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) said that Visayas has 124 megawatts and Luzon has 649 megawatts reserves.

    However, Petilla did not respond to requests for comment on the worsening power crisis in Catanduanes, where businesses and residents have been subjected to up to 20-hour brownouts due to outdated generating equipment. The local distribution utility First Catanduanes Electric Cooperative Inc. has called on President Aquino and Secretary Petilla to intercede with the National Power Corporation (NPC) to find a solution.

    Elsewhere, Petilla also gave assurances that chronic power shortfall in Mindanao is being addressed by the government.

    He said electricity demand in Mindanao is currently low, and there is enough water supply to run the various hydropower plants in the region.

    “If you notice, from red alert, Mindanao is now down to yellow alert,” Petilla pointed out.

    However, the DOE chief said that they are expecting demand to be high during the whole summer season, but added that the government is hopeful 300 megawatts generated by a new thermal coal plant will be available during the period.

    Petilla cautioned, however, that a number of power plants are scheduled for maintenance between now and September, and also reminded the public of the planned maintenance shutdown of the Malampaya deep-water-to-gas power facility in Palawan scheduled for March and April next year. “We don’t see any problem in our power supply unless all our big plants will shutdown simultaneously,” he added.

    During the last maintenance shutdown of the Malampaya platform in November 2013, several other plants in Luzon experienced unexpected simultaneous shutdowns, leading to a steep increase in electric rates for customers of Meralco, the nation’s biggest distribution utility. That rate hike was eventually blocked by a Supreme Court restraining order, and is pending final resolution either by the courts or the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC).

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