More blackouts, power rate increase on the way

Published by rudy Date posted on April 9, 2010

HOUSEHOLDS and businesses in Metro Manila and Luzon are likely to continue suffering blackouts for the next two weeks and must pay more for the power they consume.

Blackouts of up to three hours hit a wide swath of Metro Manila and the provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, Pampanga, Quezon and Rizal as at least 10 power plants went down for maintenance.

At the same time, power distributor Manila Electric Co. said its customers would suffer “an all-time-high increase” of 93 centavos a kilowatt-hour to reflect the higher price at which the utility buys its electricity from power producers.

The increase will be aggravated by the recent approval by the Energy Regulatory Commission of Meralco’s petition to raise its distribution charge.

The head of Meralco’s utility economics group, Ivanna dela Peña, said the distribution charge alone would mean an additional P53.80 in the electricity bill for customers with a monthly consumption of 200 kilowatt-hours.

Dela Peña said the higher generation charges reflected a shortage in power generated by Meralco’s suppliers, including the wholesale electricity spot market, First Gas Power Corp., Quezon Power Philippines, and the state-owned National Power Corp.

National Power Grid Corp. on Thursday reported a shortfall of 91 megawatts as 10 power plants were taken down ahead of schedule for maintenance.

Energy Secretary Jose Ibazeta said power producers shut their plants down earlier than usual to make sure the plants did not break down during the May 10 elections.

The maintenance work is expected to last two weeks.

A National Grid official told the Manila Standard that there would be no blackouts over the weekend due to lower demand.

The official also said they hoped the situation would stabilize next week after some power plants were brought back up.

Thursday’s shortfall in Luzon was puny compared with that in Mindanao, where the owners of shopping malls and factories have been asked to shut down for several days to ensure an uninterrupted power supply during the May elections.

Optical scanning machines will be used for the first time to count the votes and transmit them electronically, but some poll watchdogs have expressed fear of a failure of the elections in case of power cuts.

But a consortium that won the bid to provide 80,000 machines has promised to supply back-up batteries.

The dry spell has caused water levels in hydroelectric dams to drop to critical levels as blackouts spread to Manila and other parts of Luzon.

“What we want to make sure is that all the election precincts will have power to conduct the elections peacefully and properly,” Ibazeta told reporters. –Alena Mae S. Flores, Manila Standard Today with AP

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