Prolonged blackouts loom in Metro Manila


MANILA, Philippines – A key transformer broke down last night, rendering a huge part of Metro Manila without electricity that could last for days, the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) said.

“The reliability of Meralco’s sub-transmission system, which feeds power to Makati Business District, Fort Bonifacio, Ortigas Center, Parañaque, Alabang, Cainta, Marikina, among others, is now of serious concern,” Meralco declared in a statement.

At 11:05 a.m. yesterday, a 300-megavolt ampere (MVA) transformer in the Las Piñas (formerly Zapote) substation broke down due to internal fault, according to the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP).

It resulted in the automatic tripping of its 230-kiloVolt and 115-kV breakers.

“Given the present limitation in Meralco’s Sector 2 as a result of the failure of NGCP’s transformer, we are taking all necessary measures to avert a potentially prolonged power interruption in key areas of our franchise,” said Meralco executive vice president and networks head Ricardo Buencamino.

“This is really a precarious scenario, which will continue to prevail until a replacement transformer is put in service by NGCP,” he said.

To cope with the instability, Meralco said it reconfigured the Sector 2 sub-transmission system in order to avert the overloading of two other remaining transformers at Zapote substation.

However, power supply in a large part of Metro Manila is in danger of being interrupted.

Meralco’s 115-kV network, which distributes electricity within Metro Manila, draws power from NGCP’s Las Piñas, Sucat, Araneta, Dolores, Balintawak and Duhat substations.

NGCP’s major interchange points entering Meralco are looped at the 115-kV Meralco sub-transmission grid.

NGCP said its contingency measures isolated the damaged transformer from the rest of Meralco’s system.

“Despite the incident, no power load was dropped from the Luzon grid because Las Piñas’ load was shifted to Dolores and Sucat substations,” NGCP said.

This spared Metro Manila residents from a blackout, it added.

In the south sector of Metro Manila, Las Piñas substation is looped with Sucat and Dolores substations to redirect power flow in case of emergencies.

The same goes for the north sector, which relies on the looped substations of Araneta, Balintawak, and Duhat substations.

“To address the immediate need of the Meralco network due to the recent incident, NGCP is considering the option of transferring one 300-MVA transformer from Biñan Substation to replace the damaged transformer at the ,” NGCP said.

NGCP operates and maintains the National Transmission Corp.’s transmission business.

“Our system and our networks people are now on alert and ready to respond to whatever scenario this system problem or trouble may cause,” Buencamino said.

Meralco had 5.3 million customers last year, up by 3.7 percent from a year ago.

Lawmakers, on the other hand, noted the government has taken the proper steps to address the power shortage in other parts of the country, particularly in Mindanao.

Sen. Sergio Osmeña III, chairman of the Senate committee on energy, said Energy Secretary Jose Rene Almendras is adhering to policies laid out by the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA).

“Secretary Almendras has been adhering to the policy laid down in EPIRA. He is aware of economies of scale and that electricity would be cheaper for everyone if distributed over a bigger transmission grid than a smaller one,” he said.

Osmeña said Almendras “has been trying to manage an unmanageable situation” in Mindanao, which through its representatives in Congress, pushed for a 10-year exemption from the privatization of its National Power Corp. (Napocor) plants.

“The national reform policy on electricity, which was approved by Congress in 2001, was to harness the finances and management talents of the private sector in ensuring that the country would be supplied in a timely manner with dependable, quality and reasonably priced power,” Osmeña said.

He explained the Napocor was bankrupt and that even if it sold all of its assets, it still could not cover its liabilities.

“And there was no way it could depend on Congress to support NPC through annual appropriations in the national budget given the needs of other line agencies,” Osmeña said. – With Marvin Sy


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