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DoJ, Senate set power cut probe

The justice chief said he is ready to notify the National Bureau of Investigation to look into the allegations if the need arises



The Department of Justice (DoJ) is looking into the possibility of some generation companies’ (GenCos) possible

involvement in the unscheduled power outages early this week that the government has tagged as a form of economic sabotage.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra disclosed a plan to investigate the matter although the department has yet to receive a formal directive from the Palace.
The justice chief said he is ready to notify the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to look into the allegations if the need arises.

This was after the Department of Energy (DoE) disclosed that it has presented to the Cabinet Assistance System the power outlook and concerns.

The DoE, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said, has instructed the DoJ, the Philippine Competition Commission (PCC) and the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC), to coordinate with the energy department for case build-up and possible filing of economic sabotage charges against those who may have connived to cut power supply on Monday.

“We have not received any formal directive from the palace regarding this matter but I will alert the NBI to stand by and prepare to investigate,” Guevarra said.

Power Gencos, the DoE said, could face anti-competitive behavior and economic sabotage charges for violation of government-enforced laws and policies.

Meanwhile, the Senate Committee on Energy will also probe the spate of power interruptions that affected Luzon in the recent days, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, chairman of the panel, said.

Gatchalian stated that 39,000 households from 90 barangays in 16 local government units (LGU) were affected by the outage on 1 June, including two inoculation centers housing doses of anti-coronavirus vaccines in Valenzuela City.

“This is a critical situation and I would like to request the Department of Energy to get all hands on deck especially in the next coming days. Because from the forecast that I am seeing, there will be a problem of load dropping in the next eight days,” Gatchalian said during Wednesday’s plenary session.

In filing Senate Resolution 740, the lawmaker underscored the role of the DoE in ensuring the quality, reliability, security, and affordability of electric power supply in the country.

The National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) has raised a red and yellow alert in the Luzon grid in the past three days.

NGCP said this is due to the deficiency in the grid amounting to 716 megawatts. The available capacity of 11,260 MW was not enough to match the operating requirement of 11,976 MW.

Senator Risa Hontiveros has issued a similar call earlier saying the impending brownouts present an “extra logistical challenge” for unadministered Covid-19 vaccines.

“This is not only about appliances in our homes. There are a lot of vaccines stored in freezers and there’s even a storm. It is important for the public to know why we badly need electricity supply in the country,” Hontiveros stated.

Aside from the investigation, Hontiveros is set to file a resolution seeking to reduce the price of electricity which is one of the primary objectives of the 20-year-old Electric Power Reform Act of 2001.

The possibility of a foul play was seen by some energy stakeholders and government officials on the unexpected outages, prompting Energy Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi to call for a probe on the matter.

“I have directed my team to expedite a monitoring report on the power industry players’ full compliance to our policies, particularly those that compromise the security and reliability of electric power supply,” he added.

“I also take this opportunity to reaffirm my confidence in our hardworking team at the DoE. I assure our stakeholders that we are on top of the current situation and we never wavered in monitoring the country’s power situation,” he said.

“As early as 2020, we have been assessing how the energy industry will ensure that the power system is ready for the gradual opening of the economy as the quarantine restrictions ease, and taking into account the 2021 summer season. We created different scenarios to ensure the best possible solution to avert any power interruption given the projected maintenance based on our assessments,” Cusi stated.

Cusi reported that the Luzon plants placed on red alert and had forced outages with lack of capacity at a total 2,017 MW were the GN Power Mariveles (Units 1 and 2) of Aboitiz — 690 MW; Sem-Calaca of DMCI Holdings (Unit 2) — 300 MW; Pagbilao Unit 2 of Team Energy and Aboitiz as IPPA — 382 MW; and Sual (Unit 2) of Team Energy and San Miguel as IPPA — 647 MW. Sual was restored at 3:21 p.m. Wednesday. These were unplanned outages.

The only scheduled brownouts due to maintenance and deration that contributed to the deficiency was that of the San Roque Hydroelectric Power Plant Units 1, 2 and 3 of San Roque Power Corporation (SRPC) — 3 x 145 MW (435 MW).

“What’s happening here is that the supply and demand ratio is neck and neck with each other. The supply only matches the demand,” he said.

To alleviate the power supply situation in Luzon, Cusi said his agency is studying the viability of integrating AC Energy’s GNPower Dinginin into the grid.

“The plant is in the testing and commissioning stage. It is not tested yet but we are discussing if we can integrate it to the grid,” he said.

“I can assure the people that the government is working on everything. The government has been working on it for the past five years. There are things beyond control,” he added.

Due to these, the ERC has directed the non-complaint GenCos to explain the unplanned outages that breached the maximum allowable unplanned outage days per year.

“We are strictly monitoring and reviewing the weekly reports being submitted by the Generation Companies in compliance with our directive pertaining to the Reliability Performance Indices and Equivalent Outage Days Per Year of Generating Units.

“Based on the examination of our technical group, there are GenCos that have breached the maximum allowable unplanned outage days as of April 2021,” ERC chairperson and CEO Agnes VST Devanadera explained.

The erring GenCos were asked to submit their explanations within seven days from receipt of the ERC Notice of Non-Compliance for having a cumulative unplanned outage beyond the maximum allowable unplanned outage days for the year 2021.

The ERC issued in November 2020 Resolution 10, Series of 2020 entitled “A Resolution Adopting the Interim Reliability Performance Indices and Equivalent Outage Days Per Year of Generating Units”.

The resolution sets the maximum or cap for annual unplanned outages per generating plant technology. The subject resolution became effective on 3 January 2021 upon completion of the Cusi told a Palace briefing that his agency is issuing its long-term strategy of addressing the power supply and demand situation during the summer season, looking forward to the resumption of our country’s economic activities and recovery.

“We have put in place redundancies and even double redundancies to ensure the safe storage of our vaccines especially during this crucial period in our government’s vaccine rollout, and have laid out contingencies for the stable, reliable and accessible power for all,” Cusi assured.

After three straight days of forced outages in Luzon, the DoE said the grid returned to its normal system condition on Thursday.

“There were enough power supply reserves to accommodate the projected demand, which has significantly decreased due to adverse weather condition,” the DoE said in an advisory.