NGCP’s ‘communication lapses’ on Panay outage slammed

(Photo from NGCP FB page)

By Rjay Zuriaga Castor

An Ilonggo lawmaker criticized the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) for what he perceived as negligence in reporting updates on the Panay grid’s status during the massive power outage on January 2 that affected Panay Island.

Iloilo Third District Rep. Lorenz R. Defensor raised the issue during the House Committee on Energy,  pointing out NGCP’s failure to provide power updates to the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) from 10:20 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on January 2.

“For NGCP, on January 2 at 12:06, there was no significant incident notice issued and no reports to DOE which usually receive reports every 30 minutes, every day. Can NGCP tell us why there was no significant incident notice issued and no reports from 10:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on January 2 at 12:06?” he said.

ERC chairperson Mona Dimalanta said that under the Philippine Grid Code (PGC), NGCP is mandated to report a “significant incident” to the ERC within 15 minutes through text message.

The NGCP is also required to submit an initial written report within an hour of the incident.

The PGC defines a “significant incident” as an event on the grid, distribution system, or user system that poses a serious impact to the system.

“The first outage of the (Panay Energy Development Corporation) PEDC 1 unit…it went out at 12 noon…we did not receive a significant incident report [from NGCP]. The first report that we got is already following the cascading [tripping of power plants] at 2 pm,” Dimalanta said.

The report is expected to be sent via a Viber group which was created for NGCP to provide updates of the Panay grid following the power outage that hit Panay Island in April 2023.

Dimalanta said that under the Grid Code, the loss of a large generating unit is considered a significant incident. The PEDC Unit 1 can generate 83 megawatts.

“In the Visayas, as provided by the Grid Code, anything above five megawatts is already considered a large generator and is already a significant [incident],” added Dimalanta.

She said that under the Grid Code, the system operator such as NGCP is “responsible for ensuring that load-generation balance is maintained during normal, alert and emergency conditions.”

DOE Assistant Secretary Mario C. Marasigan noted that they only received reports from NGCP via Viber message before 10:00 a.m.

“There are no reports from 10:30 to 3:00. In fact, if I may emphasize, I personally requested from the Viber group the posting of those data,” he said.

Clark Agustin, who heads NGCP’s Visayas System Operations, explained that there were no reports at the time since the significant incident report only involved multiple trippings and generator trippings with Automatic Load Dropping (ALD).

“For the significant incident report, yun po kasing trippings based on the PGC, comprises multiple tripping, tripping of generators with ALD. Yung case po kasi neto, tripping of a single generator without ALD,” he said.

Agustin was referring to the tripping NGCP monitored of the PEDC Unit 1 at 12:06 p.m.

Despite updates not being a legal requirement, Committee chairperson Rep. Lord Allan Velasco stressed NGCP’s obligation to comply with agreements with energy regulatory bodies.

Agustin said he could not ascertain why their central office did not give reports via the Viber group but clarified that updates were sent through Short Message Service (SMS).

“For the Viber group po, actually hindi ko po masabi yung reason bakit wala. Pero for the updates, upon tripping po ng mga planta, may SMS updates pong separate,” he explained.

Defensor emphasized that the five hours that NGCP seemed to have neglected is the “most crucial period,” suggesting it could have prevented and warned power plants about the grid’s stability status.

“We could disregard the Viber group if this is not a matter of national interest. May nag shutdown na isang unit ng major plant, dun pa lang hindi sila nag report ng DOE, yung head ng industry,” he emphasized.

“That’s the most unlikely situation that you will not act and inform the DOE,” the Ilonggo lawmaker added.

Defensor has directed NGCP to submit a written report explaining their failure to present a report under their informal arrangement.