Power plant maintenance on hold for supply reasons

The annual preventive maintenance schedule (PMS) of the 150-megawatt Panay Energy Development Corp (PEDC) coal-fired power plant Unit 3 (PEDC-3) in Lapaz, Iloilo City is on hold upon request of NGCP.

By Francis Allan Angelo

Just how stable and reliable is the energy supply situation of Panay and the rest of Visayas as of now?

The numbers on paper look rosy but recent developments indicate otherwise.

This, as the management of MGen-Global Business Power Corp (MGen-GBP) announced that it postponed the annual preventive maintenance schedule (PMS) of the 150-megawatt Panay Energy Development Corp (PEDC) coal-fired power plant Unit 3 (PEDC-3).

The maintenance work is necessary to ensure the power plant’s integrity and safety.

Antonio Cabalhug Jr., MGen-GBP first vice president for Panay Site Operations, said they were supposed to start the PMS on Monday, but the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP), which operates the power transmission lines of the country, asked them to postpone it in the meantime.

“This PMS was planned and approved months but NGCP suddenly asked us on Monday to postpone it in the meantime until the NGCP has assured that the grid security, especially in Panay, is assured. We were told that the grid was critical and will be affected if we remove the 150MW from PEDC-3,” Cabalhug said.

A statement from an NGCP spokesperson said that “NGCP and PEDC are currently discussing the concern to iron out the final schedule of PEDC U3’s preventive maintenance.”

“The absence of 150MW from Unit 3 during the increased demand this December is something quite huge, hence the ongoing discussions with PEDC,” the statement added.

Cabalhug said the postponement will affect them financially as their contractors were already deployed and “we will be paying them.”

“I hope this will not last for more than a week because our contractor from the US is already on standby and we will be paying them now. But since our priority is public service, we have no recourse but to follow their request. We are also consumers, and we know how it feels to lose power supply,” he added.

When asked what could be the reason for the postponement, Cabalhug hinted at possible supply issues in the Visayas grid given the high demand for electricity due to the holidays.

“A lot of us are using our Christmas lights apart from our usual appliances. The NGCP may have registered a sudden spike in demand this year compared to 2022.”

Cabalhug said GBPC-PEDC plants in Iloilo City have a combined capacity of 314 megawatts “and all of these are available.”

All over Panay, GBPC has more than 400 megawatts of available electricity.

But Cabalhug said the limited capacity of the transmission line from Cebu to Panay (at 180 MW only) could be the main issue, not necessarily the available supply.

“We have more than 700MW excess power in Visayas so that is not an issue. It’s more likely the limited capacity of the transmission line from Cebu,” he added.

A check with the NGCP website indicated that Visayas’ peak or highest demand as of Wednesday is 2,188 MW while its available capacity is 2,781 MW, leaving an operating margin of 593 MW.

In April 2023, Western Visayas was hit by massive power blackouts due to transmission line issues.

It was later traced to a transmission facility in Negros Occidental that conked out and caused the power grid to collapse for two days. While supply from power plants was available, challenges in stabilizing the lines prolonged the blackout in the middle of a sweltering summer.