(STAR) By Marvin Sy  - Malacañang assured the public yesterday the government is finding ways to minimize the impact of blackouts this summer, particularly on big business.

Deputy presidential spokesman Gary Olivar said the Palace has yet to receive a report from the Department of Energy (DOE) about the expected power outages, particularly in Luzon, because of the operational problems of two major power plants.

He said the government would strive to ensure predictability of the blackouts.

“If it takes place too often and too long we could have a problem,” he said.

“The predictability of the brownout is very important so that we can prepare our contingency plans.”

Olivar said major industries would have to be shielded from long unpredictable blackouts because this would heavily affect production.

The DOE should already have the criteria on which areas would be shielded from the long power outages.

“Certainly we are nowhere near the severity of the problem that happened in the early ‘90s,” he said.

Meanwhile, Nacionalista Party standard-bearer Manuel Villar Jr. said the government should focus on coming out with an intervention plan for the power sector to address the blackouts.

“This problem needs adequate preparation as this is a year in, year out headache,” he said.

Villar warned of a serious economic downturn if the government fails to immediately respond to the power crisis.

Reyes: No blackouts this month

Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes assured the public yesterday that no power outage will occur this month.

Owners of the Malaya and Limay power plants have vowed to exhaust efforts to avert the looming power shortage for February, he added.

Reyes said San Miguel Energy Corp. chairman and president Ramon Ang has confirmed that the Limay power plant will be on-line beginning Monday (Feb. 15) to avert a power shortage in Luzon.

Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp. (PSALM) has also said it would release funds for the procurement of fuel for the Malaya bunker-fired power facility, he added.

Earlier, the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines warned that starting Feb. 16 to March 11, the Luzon grid will again be placed on red alert level as power supply deficiency is seen to hit 500 megawatts (MW).

The deficiency would come from two load problems of 650 MW at Malaya, run by Korea Electric and Power Co., and 620 MW in Limay being managed by San Miguel Energy Corp. (SMEC).

Reyes said at present, Luzon is on yellow alert level with reserves of only 100 MW.

Last month, rotating blackouts occurred in most areas in Manila Electric Co. (Meralco)’s franchise area because of the unexpected shutdown of the Limay and Sual power plants.

Reyes told reporters yesterday he would also ask the Malampaya consortium, operator of Service Contract 38, to fast-track the scheduled maintenance of the gas pipeline.

At present, the 1,200-MW Ilijan natural gas power plant is not running due to maintenance of the Malampaya gas facility, but the 1,500-MW Santa Rita and San Lorenzo are managing to run using condensate instead of natural gas.

“Also we have touched base with SC 38 to have their maintenance period shortened by five days, from March 11 to March 6,” he said.

Reyes said they have also asked another power facility, the 100-MW Subic power plant, to go on stream, and he would also be urging the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) to act on the recovery of generation costs of the power plants.

On the transmission and generation side, Reyes said he would continue to encourage the players to perform their respective tasks.

“I am asking the NGCP and all the power generators to shape up and perform their tasks, including the regulatory agencies, because sometimes the delay in the regulatory functions is what discourages or makes generators hesitant to generate power,” he said.

“So we are now working very closely with privatized corporations and the ERC because we are now in a critical period.”

Reyes said they would also zero in on power deficiencies in the Visayas and Mindanao, which are also critical, with deficits of about 77 MW and 173 MW, respectively.

“We will be conducting dialogues and finding out what the problem is all about and try to evolve solutions together with the stakeholders in those areas.”- With Donnabelle Gatdula

Luzon on energy 'red alert' By Donnabelle Gatdula (The Philippine Star) Updated February 12, 2010 12:00 AM

MANILA, Philippines - A severe power shortage looms in Luzon this month as fuel and maintenance problems threaten to undermine the operation of two major power plants, according to a ranking official of the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines .

NGCP vice president for system operations Carlito Claudio said the Luzon grid would be placed on red alert level as the power supply deficiency is seen to hit 500 megawatts between Feb. 16 and March 11.

Claudio said the 650-MW Malaya diesel-fired plant is likely to run out of fuel next week while the Limay plant - also diesel fired - is expected to remain under repair until the end of the month.

The Malaya plant is run by Korea Electric and Power Co., while the 620-MW Limay is managed by San Miguel Energy Corp. (SMEC).

“Malaya was intended to be used for the shutdown of the Malampaya-fueled power plants starting Feb.10, but it was compelled to run in January due to Sual and Limay shutdown. Malaya said it would run out of inventory already,” he said.

Claudio said the “critical period” would be between Feb.16 to March 11. “We are worried about the deficiency this month. At the rate that Malaya power plant is going, its inventory will run out soon,” he said.

He said the system is expected to stabilize after the completion of the maintenance work on the 2,700-MW natural gas-fired power plants - Santa Rita, San Lorenzo and Ilijan - possibly on March 10.

Claudio said NGCP would communicate with the Department of Energy (DOE) regarding the impending power supply problem.

“We will inform the DOE on the situation then we could issue the notice,” he said.

He said at present, Luzon is on yellow alert level with reserves of only 100 MW.

Last month, the franchise areas of the Manila Electric Co. were subjected to rotating blackouts because of the unexpected shutdown of Limay and Sual power plants.

El Niño threat

The DOE is closely monitoring hydroelectric power plants in the country, particularly those in Mindanao, to ensure reliable power supply amid threat of El Niño or a severe dry spell.

“The hydropower plants will have to be monitored. We have to see to it that they are operating and that they are delivering the right amount of power given the constraint imposed on the amount of water that will be available to them,” Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes said.

Nacionalista Party senatorial candidate and former Philippine National Oil Co. (PNOC) director Ramon Mitra, meanwhile, said it is “high time for the government to look at the country’s energy generation mix.”

“The dependency on hydro power plants has been causing this red alert. This is high time for the government, particularly the PNOC, to start fast tracking the processing of the proposals for major power infrastructure,” he said.

Mitra cited plans for the development of a natural gas pipeline aimed at helping lessen the country’s dependence on intermittent energy resources such as hydro power plants.

“I call on PNOC to process these proposals at the soonest possible time. We have natural gas projects in the pipeline,” he said.

“We have banked gas as well as new gas coming from Palawan. All we have to do is process these proposals,” Mitra said.

Reyes said Mindanao is home to some of the biggest hydro facilities in the country and yet many of its localities have little or no electricity.

The National Power Corp. (Napocor) runs the Agus 1-6 hydro-power complex in Mindanao. Its Unit 4 is currently down.

The government has so far privatized 12 hydro power plants. Under the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) or Republic Act 9136, the Agus complex will be auctioned off in 2011, or 10 years after the signing of EPIRA.

The Agus complex’s total capacity is over 700 megawatts (MW) or about half of the 1,500 MW dependable capacity of the entire Mindanao province.

Based on the DOE’s Power Supply and Demand 2008-2017, Mindanao needs 600 MW during the period but only has 100 MW of committed projects.

The DOE said Mindanao’s power situation is vulnerable to water lack because hydro plants supply half of the requirement of the grid.

Mindanao suffered rotating blackouts when most of its power plants shut down for various reasons in September 2009.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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