MANILA, Philippines – Following the brownouts in parts of Luzon two days ago, Energy Secretary Raphael Lotilla said in an interview on Wednesday, May 10, that the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) has not had a performance audit since its inception as a privately-owned transmission service provider in 2009.
“On the part of the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC), unfortunately, over the last 14 years, this is the first that has been conducted,” Lotilla told the ABS-CBN News Channel (ANC).
Regulators had recently concluded a financial audit of the NGCP, and Lotilla said that a performance audit is up next. In addition, a contract performance review will be done by the National Transmission Corporation (Transco) and the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corporation (PSALM).
The NGCP had “resisted” contractual performance reviews from Transco and PSALM in the past, Lotilla said in the interview.
He hoped that this remains in the past, and that the NGCP will now allow these audits.
“We want to be able to ascertain exactly where the weak points in the transmission system are and address them,” Lotilla said.
Based on NGCP’s internal investigation, its Bolo-Masinloc 230 kilovolt (kV) Line 2 tripped, which led to two (315 megawatts each) of three units of the Masinloc power plant tripping and the loss of 630 megawatts (MW) in energy supply. Since there were other power plants on forced outage, the total loss to the grid on Monday reached 1,354MW.
A red-alert status was thus raised over Luzon by the NGCP from 2 pm to 4 pm and 7 pm to 8 pm, while a yellow-alert status was raised from 5 pm to 6 pm.
In a press conference the day after, Energy Undersecretary Rowena Guevara said the NGCP’s initial explanation was that a lightning strike on the transmission line caused it to trip.
The NGCP, in a statement on May 8, said the “redundancy” or backup system to the Bolo-Masinloc 230kV transmission line worked, but the “protection settings” of its customers connected to the system were not consistent with those of the NGCP.
“We are coordinating with Masinloc power plant and other grid-connected generating plants on the way forward and to ensure that protection settings are in sync between generating plants and NGCP,” the company said.
Lotilla explained in the interview that the “ultimate solution” would be the completion of transmission upgrades to the Luzon power grid, which the NGCP is also handling.
On the supply side, Lotilla hopes that the Ilijan power plant, which is capable of supplying an additional 1,200MW to the Luzon grid, can resume operation in June this year to help bolster energy reserves. This power plant has not been in operation since June 2022 as it is being retrofitted.
Lotilla added that they are also waiting for the NGCP to complete connecting other systems around the country, namely the Bataan-Hermosa line, the Cebu-Negros-Panay connection, and the Mindanao-Visayas interconnection. These projects are expected to be completed by the August 2023 revised deadline.
The energy chief reiterated the call for all stakeholders, including Congress, to help facilitate and speed up the process of the construction of transmission towers and distribution lines.
“We call on everyone’s cooperation in the completion of these projects and the identification of other critical transmission projects that need upgrading or rehabilitation,” Lotilla said in a statement.
The NGCP consortium is made up of Henry Sy Jr.’s Monte Oro Grid Resources Corporation and Roberto Coyiuto’s Calaca High Power Corporation with the State Grid Corporation of China as technical partner. Congress granted it a 50-year franchise to operate, maintain, and expand the country’s transmission system.
Outrage over outages
Meantime, a consumer group and a senator called for a review of the NGCP’s franchise agreement over alleged shortcomings.
Kuryente.org called on President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to “reprimand and review” the NGCP.
“The power outage we experienced in the sweltering heat of the country’s dry season is not an accident but a result of NGCP’s failure to fulfill its obligations as a private corporation responsible for operating, managing, and ensuring that the country’s grid provides reliable, sufficient, and safe electricity,” Roland Vibal, national coordinator for Kuryente.org, said in a statement.
Senator Risa Hontiveros also made a call to address the power shortage “looming over the country.”
“Either the energy officials or the entire power system itself is suffering from integrity problems. Mayroon nang reseta na noon pa na-prescribe para lutasin ang parehong problema ng suplay at reserba pero hindi sinusunod. Pangakong napako na naman,” she said in a statement.
(There was already a prescribed solution to the problems of supply and reserves but this wasn’t followed. Another unfulfilled promise). – Rappler.com
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