Malampaya shutdown starts Sunday

by RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 12 2015 04:21 AM | Updated as of Mar 12 2015 11:45 PM

MANILA - The 2015 Malampaya turnaround will start its month-long shutdown on Sunday, before Congress has even passed into a law a joint resolution granting President Aquino additional powers to address a supposed power crisis this summer.

The bicameral conference committee is deadlocked in reconciling the Senate and House versions of the resolution, and thus cannot send it to the 2 chambers for ratification.

Congress has no sessions on Thursdays and Fridays.

In his September 12, 2014 letter to House Speaker Sonny Belmonte, President Aquino cited the 2015 Malampaya turnaround as one of the reasons for an "imminent shortage of electric power for the summer of 2015 in Luzon."

The letter read, "the Department of Energy reports and projects a critical electricity situation in the summer of 2015 arising from among others, the expected effects of the El Nino phenomenon, the 2015 Malampaya turnaround, increases and continuing outages of power plants and anticipate delays in the commission of committed power projects."

The same is reflected in the House Resolution 21.

The same resolution cited the thinning of the power reserves, as opposed to actual supply. "In the week 14 of 2015, a maximum projected shortfall of 782 MW of which 135 is needed to met the required regulating reserve and 647 MW is needed to met the required contingency reserve. Corollarily a total of 2 weeks of red alert and 15 weeks of yellow alert is projected for that period."

House Energy Committee chair Reynaldo Umali said the Malampaya shutdown affects about 780 MW.

If a second plant goes on maintanence as well, that means another 600MW will be affected.

If no other plant shuts down aside from Malampaya, only 360 MW will be de-rated.

Umali said these are planned outages. What is worrisome is if more plants shut down.

He said the most critical period-- week 14 in the resolution-- falls on the 1st week of April.

“Most critical yung time na aabot tayo sa red alert," he said. "Iyung representation ng DOE noon is worst-scenario, lumalabas doon parang 1-2 hours a day for 1 day in a week for 2 weeks. Pero binago na naman nagbago na naman ng DOE kaya umabot tayo ng July."

Umali is cautious but still optimistic. “If you will recall, December 2013 when Meralco reached, nagka-spike on Meralco rates, 18-19 plants conked out we never suffered any brownouts. The only problem really was yung nag-spike nga yung prices."

The bicam is deadlocked over 2 issues.

The first is the Senate’s proposal for the extension of the life of the resolution from 5 months -- March to July this year to June 2016.

Umali said this has a bearing on costs, which can actually be cheaper.

The other issue is whether costs will be passed on to consumers or charged to the Malampaya Fund.

The lower House prefers to charge costs to the Malampaya Fund, but the Senate is against it.

Until these issues are addressed, the bicam remains in a deadlock.

Umali earlier explained that without the emergency powers resolution, costs will be passed on to consumers.