Malampaya repair to hike rates

Power rates in the franchise area of Manila Electric Co. may increase by as much as P2 per kilowatthour, once the Malampaya natural gas field in northwest Palawan is closed for maintenance repair next month, a government official said Friday.

Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla told reporters the Malampaya gas field would undergo maintenance shutdown from Nov. 9 to Dec. 8, forcing the three natural gas-fired power plants in Luzon to shift to more expensive fuel.

Meralco officials said power generation charges might increase as early as November because of a tight power supply as a result of the Malampaya shutdown.  The higher rates would be reflected in Meralco bills by December, they added.

Petilla said power consumers had no choice but to bear the anticipated higher power rates, because the Malampaya gas field must undergo maintenance and repair.

“Be prepared [for the higher rates] because if we do not repair Malampaya, if we have a problem, it may get worse. The most expensive electricity is having no electricity,”  Petilla said.

The Malampaya gas field supplies fuel to the 1,500-megawatt Sta. Rita and San Lorenzo natural gas facilities owned by First Gen Corp. and the 1,200-MW Ilijan combined cycle natural gas plant operated by Kepco Philippines Corp.

“There will be a significant increase [in power rates]...Working only on theories here...We’re looking at about 50-percent increase [in Meralco’s] generation cost,” Petilla said.

Meralco’s power demand is around 6,000 MW, of which 2,700 MW is supplied by the natural gas plants, Petilla said.

“At least P2 per kWh...but that is offhand only and not Meralco’s computation...It also depends on the mix,” he said.

Petilla, however, assured the three gas-fired plants would be running on “liquid” fuels and the 600-MW Malaya diesel power plant would be on hand to address any supply shortage.

“All our planning are directed to that [to ensure that there will be enough power supply]. They will run on liquid fuel except Ilijan 600-MW. We also have replacement plants,” he said.

Meralco officials confirmed the impending price increase of P1 to P2 per kwh.

Meralco senior executive vice president and head of networks Ricardo Buencamino said the company was “working out something with power suppliers” to mitigate the impact of the Malampaya gas field shutdown.

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