Looming power crisis

HIDDEN AGENDA - Mary Ann LL. Reyes - The Philippine Star

Just recently, the Institute of Climate and Sustainable Cities (ICSC) in a report warned about possible blackouts over the Luzon grid in the second quarter of this year, including the weeks leading up to and immediately after the May elections.

The ICSC anticipates a deficit of 1,335 megawatts in the country’s power supply based on historical trends and the current power reserves.

In its report, ICSC said that while the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines’ power outlook for May showed a margin of 1,200 MW of operating reserves before the Luzon grid goes into red alert status signaling the possibility of brownouts, coal power plants which the Department of Energy said would supplement the energy supply from traditional generators may not be able to operate fully in the crucial months ahead.

The report pointed out that if there is no definite schedule as to when these coal plants can provide reliable power supply again, then the DOE should take them out of what they consider as dependable capacity. It added that keeping these plants in the scheduled total dependable capacity would only mask the power supply deficiency problem like what is happening today.

As early as September last year, the US International Trade Administration noted that the Philippines is facing a mounting energy crisis as the Malampaya natural gas fields, currently supplying 30 percent of Luzon’s energy consumption, are expected to be depleted by 2024.

It said that an ever-increasing population, an administration-mandated infrastructure boom, and some of the highest electricity costs in Southeast Asia all combine to present formidable challenges to energy production.

Even the NGCP itself last January acknowledged the strong likelihood of red alert, which could lead to rotational power interruptions in the Luzon grid during the dry season due to higher demand and when several power plants go on unplanned outages.

NGCP said that thin operating margins, or the power in excess of demand which is used to manage and balance the grid, is forecasted in the Luzon grid from April to June due to increase in demand during the dry season, including the critical election period.

This as the DOE forecasted a total peak demand of 12,387 MW for Luzon in the last week of May. This is significantly higher than the actual 2021 peak load of 11,640 MW on May 28 and the pre-pandemic peak demand of 11,344 MW on June 21, 2019.

Last January, the NGCP sought the intervention of Malacanang to help avert a possible power shortage in the summer months, as it raised the possibility of having multiple red and yellow alerts in Luzon.

It submitted a letter to the President to warn about the power situation in the next few months, including the election period.

NGCP said that under the ‘worst-case scenario,” there will be 14 weeks of red alerts and 15 weeks of yellow alerts in the Luzon grid while the Visayas grid may experience up to 49 weeks of red alerts and four weeks of yellow alerts, especially if no power would be transported from the Luzon grid.

It added that the critical period of power supply would be from the week of April 18 until the week of May 30.

NGCP had projected a peak demand of 12,387 MW in Luzon this year, higher than last year’s actual peak load of 11,640 MW.

The NGCP is responsible for transmitting electricity to households and businesses nationwide.

As a system operator, NGCP’s responsibility also includes determining, acquiring, and dispatching the needed ancillary services (AS) in order to maintain power quality and the reliability and security of the grid.

AS are reserves of power supply that are meant to be delivered to consumers in case any area of the Philippines has a lower supply.

DOE Circular 2019-12-0018 mandated the NGCP, as the system operator, to procure ancillary services through firm contracts to ensure that the facilities contracted to provide AS are always available whenever needed by the system for the reliability of the grid.



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