DoE could grant power plants bigger allowance for outages

THE Department of Energy (DoE) said it is looking into allowing a longer plant shutdown period for maintenance.

“We should allow also the plants sufficient time to do their maintenance work. We’re comparing the amount of time that we allow the plants to undertake those,” Energy Secretary Raphael P.M. Lotilla told reporters last week.

Mr. Lotilla said cited the case of Japan, which allows longer maintenance periods.

“They will be able to take a deep dive to really inspect the different parts of the plant,” he said.

The reliability index implemented since 2020 allows the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) to set the maximum days of planned and unplanned outages per year, varying by generating plant technology.

A power plant that runs on pulverized coal can be out of operation for 44.7 days. This comprises 27.9 days of planned outages and 16.8 days of forced or unplanned outages.

A power plant running on circulating fluidized bed technology should not be out of service for more than 32.3 days —including 15.4 days of planned outage and 16.9 days of unplanned outage.

Geothermal plants are only allowed to be out for 19.7 days, with six days for planned outages and 13.7 days unplanned.

In 2023, the ERC imposed approximately P60 million worth of penalties against generation companies for exceeding their outage maximums.

“Preventive maintenance is very important. And just like in aircraft, you have to have regular maintenance to be carried out and enough time to carry out the maintenance,” Mr. Lotilla said.

Jose M. Layug, Jr. president of the Developers of Renewable Energy for Advancement, Inc., said that allowing power plants longer maintenance periods would “ensure that these aging power plants get the needed operational servicing for better performance.”

“While this may not solve the short-term supply issue, this may help the power plants perform better in the long run,” he said in a Viber message.

The ERC reported that five power generation companies exceeded the unplanned outage allowance as of April 30.

These are Masinloc unit 1 coal-fired thermal power plant and Sem-Calaca Power Corp. coal plant 2 in Luzon. 

In the Visayas, those exceeding the limits are the Mahanagdong geothermal power plant unit 2, Malitbog geothermal power plant unit 1, and Palm Concepcion Power Corp. unit 1. — Sheldeen Joy Talavera