Wednesday, December 12, 2012

IPP Shutdown: SESB load shedding on the card

Load shedding in our daily conversation can equate to power outage. Power outage to certain consumers at the affected shedding area. AND that is just what's in store for you in the next few months, or maybe longer.

SESB is again faced with failure of one of its Independent Power Producers power generator. According to the press release (pic below) a 65MW gas turbine malfunctioned since Dec 5, and as a result the related 30MW steam turbine, too, is unable to operate. That is 95MW of margin taken out of the total capacity.

Your area could face power outage anytime soon, until further notice.

What this means is that SESB is currently in short supply of power. The state's maximum demand is about 830MW and SESB's total generating capacity is 950MW. With the IPP capacity of 95MW omitted, the utility company has only 855MW at its disposal, leaving no room for safety margin.

With this scenario, at peak hours, you could experience power failures as it is now 'waiting to happen' although SESB had activated the Demand Side Management (DSM). The DSM requires that large power users such as large factories, universities, big shopping malls, water treatment plants, etc will be asked to scale down on power usage (reduced business activity) or alternatively use their own back-up generator sets.

It is very unfair to ask business operators to run their own power generator as it costs a lot in operating expenses, when it is nothing of their fault.

IPPs have the social obligation to make sure power from their plants are supplied to SESB reliably. So is  SESB. The contract should provide for mechanism to strictly tie IPPs to this obligation. People understand that IPPs were asked to 'help' the power utility to supply power due to, probably, insufficient funding on the utility's part. But when equipment within the IPPs' jurisdiction fail too frequently, you start to question the adequacy of the contract:

Where is the safety margin?
Where is the scheduled maintenance program?
Why is the failure always related to emergency repairs?

But this will soon be over you say, because Kubota Power Plant (Tawau) and Kimanis Power Plant (Papar) will be completed very soon and this will take care of things.

I'll say you can have all the power plants in the world. If you don't take care of them with proper maintenance, believe me, we can still have as frequent power failure as we currently have.

Please, No blackout-Christmas

In the meantime, let's hope the festive season is not marred with a lot of power outages. "A lot" definitely does not equate to "better" in this context.

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