By Sean Rafio and Rjay Zuriaga Castor
The investigation into the massive power outage in Panay Island may be completed in six to eight weeks, the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) said on Saturday.
Citing a similar investigation into the Negros and Panay power outage in April last year, ERC Chairperson Monalisa Dimalanta said that the agency would complete its probe in six to eight weeks.
After the investigation is completed, potential fines and penalties, up to a maximum of P50 million per violation, would be imposed.
This was after President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Department of Energy Secretary Raphael Lotilla said the NGCP could have prevented the power outage had it acted during a two-hour window to prevent a system collapse.
“Accountability lies with the NGCP. They are tasked with grid stability. Stability involves proactive responses to breakdowns and unexpected events, a duty that NGCP unfortunately has not fulfilled adequately,” Marcos said.
“As the systems operator, NGCP must proactively engage with distribution utilities and cooperatives to manage loads and prevent such system collapses,” the president added.
Meanwhile, the Department of Energy (DOE) will support a legislative investigation into the incident and a review of the franchise of NGCP, including a possible fine of P2 million per day for violations or non-compliance with regulations.
“We will exert all efforts to exact full accountability for any failures in the delivery of the services expected from NGCP as the transmission concessionaire and the country’s biggest monopoly,” Energy Secretary Raphael Lotilla said Friday.
Lotilla said the DOE will recommend to Congress the separation and transfer of systems operation function from the NGCP so that the company can focus on delivering its transmission network projects.
He issued the statement in the aftermath of the massive power outage that affected Panay Island this week, which he blamed on the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines.
The DOE is blaming the NGCP for the power outage in the Panay grid as the system operator was not able to immediately act on the power disturbance due to the trip-offs of the Panay Energy Development Corp. (PEDC) Units 1 and 2 as well as the Palm Concepcion Power Corp. (PCPC) Unit 1, which also affected the delivery of power supply of other generation facilities in Visayas to the grid.
“The Independent Electricity Market Operator of the Philippines (IEMOP) has pointed out that there was a two-hour window when the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines could have proactively called on the distribution utilities and electric cooperatives in Panay to reduce their load in order to prevent a subsystem-wide collapse,” Lotilla said.
The DOE will also call for a review of “the special tax privilege of NGCP to pay only a 3 percent franchise tax in lieu of all other national and local taxes.”
Lotilla earlier said the NGCP shouldered the “main accountability” over the power fiasco.
‘WE DID OUR JOB’
Meanwhile, the NGCP denied fault in the Panay Island blackout, claiming that it had adhered to its procedures, in response to criticism from influential government figures and agencies.
NGCP spokesperson Cynthia Alabanza said the power grid operator had fulfilled its responsibility to bring power to Western Visayas.
“At the time base sa mga datos na nakalap namin hindi nagkulang ang transmission ng grid system kasi normal ang boltahe at normal ang frequency lalo na nitong panahon na tumirik ang planta,” she said in an interview with TeleRadyo.
“Since wala kaming nakikitang problema sa boltahe… sa totoo lang inisip ko nga na kung halimbawa nanghula kami — nag-speculate kami at nagtanggal ng load nang walang dahilan, marami ang nagre-reklamo,” she added.
Officials like Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas expressed their anger at the NGCP for what they said was its inaction on repeated blackouts which have happened previously in April 2023.
BACK TO NORMAL
Power returned to normalcy in Panay on Friday noon, January 5, after the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines fully restored all affected feeders and transmission operations.
As of noon on Jan. 5, NGCP announced that it was “removing restriction of demand and is fully restoring loads at Panay Island following the synchronization of the Palm Concepcion Power Corporation (PCPC) to the grid at 1:33 a.m.”
At 12:49 p.m., PCPC dispatched its maximum load capacity of 135 megawatts (MW).
The synchronization of PCPC to the grid was the final touch that the NGCP needed to finally restore the power on Panay Island.
With PCPC’s synchronization, 347.2 MW is being served by Panay power plants, with 5.7 MW exported elsewhere to the grid, for a total of 341.4 MW served loads.
In Iloilo City, MORE Electric and Power Corporation (MORE Power) said they had restored all its six substations at 12:31 p.m.
Since the start of the power blackout, MORE Power has been implementing round-the-clock rotational brownouts in the city after receiving clearance from NGCP.
MORE Power emphasized that “in the interest of public safety and well-being, and to avoid jeopardizing lives, hospitals, and other vital institutions providing essential functions were given higher priority as we continued the distribution of the limited power supply throughout the franchise area.”
Meanwhile, at 12:30 p.m., the Iloilo Electric Cooperative (ILECO) I and III announced that they had also energized all feeders in their coverage area. ILECO II confirmed that it had fully energized all of its areas at 12:35 p.m.