Tripping mystery

ERC said worthy of note in the Monday incident was that four of the seven generating units that reported the outages were due to the tripping of the Bolo-Nagsaag 500-kV transmission lines.

Luzon residents were left wondering what exactly hit them last 12 September when suddenly the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines raised the power alert level to red, which meant the high probability of a brownout that most Filipinos thought they have already been spared from.

Most breathed a sigh of relief toward the afternoon as the alert was eased to yellow.

Even the Department of Energy was left wondering, reading between the lines of the statement of DoE Secretary Raphael “Popo” Lotilla, who said there is no constraint on fuel supply.

Lotilla’s reaction was to mention the state of fuel availability, since seven major power plants simultaneously went off-grid, depriving the Luzon network of more than three gigawatts of electricity.

Power plants that suffered an unplanned outage were the 300-megawatt Calaca plant; 668-MW Dinginin; 460-MW Quezon Power; 647-MW Sual 1; 647-MW Sual 2; 344-MW Masinloc 2 and 335-MW Masinloc 3.

Rotating brownouts were experienced on Monday, meaning that the NGCP and power distributors in the Luzon grid had to ration the available supply.

NGCP’s report to the Energy Regulatory Commission indicated the Luzon grid was on yellow alert between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. and from 5 to 9 p.m. Red alert was raised from 1 to 6 p.m.

Lotilla said the sudden electricity shortfall is under investigation, in which a team from the DoE conducted actual physical spot checks to validate the condition of the transmission lines.

NGCP, likewise, reported three generating units with a total of 226 MW were subjected to “deration.”

For the sudden drop in power supply to happen in a relatively cool season when demand is not that high, along with the fact that most were “unplanned,” raised intriguing questions.

Another coincidence in the outage was that most of those that conked out are owned by SMC Global Power, which has a pending rate adjustment plea for its Ilijan and Sual plants.

San Miguel Corp. had threatened to back out of the power supply agreements with Meralco if it fails to obtain ERC approval on its rate hike petitions.

Some old hands in the power sector, moreover, said the reliability of the grid has been compromised during the pandemic, mainly as a result of supply chain bottlenecks that delayed the delivery of parts and other equipment to keep the power system running efficiently.

The ERC said worthy of note in the Monday incident was that four of the seven generating units that reported the outages were due to the tripping of the Bolo-Nagsaag 500-kV transmission lines.

Three generating units were idle prior to the “grid tripping,” the ERC reported.

After the transmission lines were repaired, some of the power plants remained idle and did not immediately go back online.

A deep probe into the “coincidences” should be undertaken since it was not the first time that a host of high-capacity power plants went offline during a critical period when rate hike petitions are on the table.

Sometime last March, forced outages were experienced simultaneously among generating facilities due to different technical troubles, which are almost identical to what was cited in the most recent stoppage.

Investigations were conducted both in the ERC and in Congress, but nothing came out of these and everything was again charged to experience.


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