Government: Normal power for May 9

(The Philippine Star) - April 17, 2016 - 10:00am

MANILA, Philippines – Energy officials yesterday assured the public of continuous power supply all over the country leading to the elections on May 9.

Department of Energy (DOE) Assistant Secretary Patrick Aquino said the forecast on the Luzon and Visayan power grid would continue to be normal despite the high demand for electricity during the summer months.

Malacañang also gave assurance there would be stable power supply in the days leading to the elections amid repeated power interruptions in Luzon caused by diminishing power reserves due to the extended El Niño phenomenon.

“The objective of the Department of Energy is to have a zero disruption one week before and one week after May 9. This is the ideal situation,” Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said.

Aquino, on the other hand, cited data of the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP) showing Luzon is projected to have a supply of 11,045 megawatts as against a demand of 9,582 MW.

Visayas is expected to have supply of 1,756 MW versus a demand of 1,750 MW.

The Mindanao grid, on the other hand, is expected to get additional supply with the newly built coal-fired power plant of Aboitiz Power Corp., he said.

Forecasts indicated Mindanao is expected to be placed on yellow to red alert as demand surges at the start of the work week.

Projections of the NGCP showed Mindanao will have an available capacity of 1,437 megawatts as against a system peak of 1,459 MW. This means the region has a power deficit of 22 MW.

The grid operator said projections are based on data computed last Friday and are subject to change depending on actual power system conditions.

However, Mindanao’s power situation is expected to improve as Aboitiz Power’s Therma South Inc. (TSI) power plant started supplying power back to the grid yesterday,  DOE director Irma Exconde said.

“TSI just informed us that Unit 1 has completed their corrective measures and synchronized to the Mindanao grid at 5:33 p.m. (yesterday). We expect improvement in situation in Mindanao,” she said.

Last Friday, the DOE said the participants of the Interruptible Load Program (ILP) have helped ease the power demand in the Luzon grid.

Under the ILP, big load customers of distribution utilities and electric cooperatives registered in the program run their stand-by generation sets in times of energy supply deficiency to prevent power outages.

Malacañang yesterday hailed the 121 private groups who voluntarily helped avert a Luzon-wide power outage last week by turning their generator sets on, thereby increasing the government’s thinning generating capacity in the process.

Coloma Jr. said this is how the ILP works, especially in light of the yellow and red alert status issued by the NGCP.

Coloma said the 121 ILP “participants” contributed “247 megawatts from their generating capacity,” or through their generator sets.

This allowed the country’s largest power distributor Manila Electric Co. to prevent possible implementation of “rotating brownouts” that could have affected around 570,000 households on Friday last week.

“We just witnessed the cooperation of the private sector with the government in averting the crisis,” Coloma said.

Coloma referred to the power deficiency in Kalayaan 3 and 4 power plants, along with Malaya 2 power plant.

Power reserves were reported to be thinning on Friday last week by 223 megawatts from 1-2 p.m., and 127 megawatts more from 2 to 3 p.m., forcing the NGCP to issue a yellow and later, red alert status.

The impending crisis was solved because of the government’s ILP with the private sector.

Coloma noted the demand for power supply has so far been increasing at this time of the year because of the continued drought, especially in the provinces.

He made the statement as the NGCP placed Mindanao and Luzon on red alert. A red alert status signifies that the electricity supply could not cope with the demand.

Coloma noted the high demand for electricity was due to a combination of rising heat index – which reached a record-breaking 52.3°C in Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija, on Tuesday on April 12 – and the maintenance shutdowns of power plants.

The DOE is closely monitoring the maintenance work to prevent a forced outage in the crucial period before the presidential elections, according to Coloma.

“We are continuing to coordinate with the power players to address the power situation. One of the concerns, of course, is the bombing of transmission towers,” Coloma said, referring to armed groups attacking power transmission power lines in the countryside.

Malacañang also appealed to the public to lessen their power consumption and help the government stave off a possible power crisis.

Contrived, deliberate

Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Neri Colmenares, however, said there are indications that the current thin power reserves in the country are “contrived and deliberate.”

Colmenares pointed out two of the power plants that conked out, particularly the 630-megawatt Malaya power plant and the 52-MW Kalayaan, are government-owned and controlled.

“We asked the Department of Energy when Congress was in session what were their plans to ensure that there would be electricity during summer especially during the elections and they said that they are already working on it, but look at us now; two days of yellow alert and a red alert yesterday. Mindanao is experiencing five hours of rotating brownouts,” Colmenares said.

He said the government should have addressed the great demand for electricity during summer through repairs and maintenance activities, especially as the May elections and El Niño phenomenon have been anticipated since last year.

“We can’t help but be suspicious because everybody knew the elections and El Niño were coming. This was the same scenario painted by President Aquino when he was asking for emergency powers so he could buy generators worth billions of pesos,” he said.

As early as 2014, Colmenares said he had proposed solutions to augment the country’s power supply, like the nationalization of the power industry and the tapping of the state-owned Sucat power plant.

“This power plant (Sucat) should be immediately rehabilitated and recommissioned instead of being sold to the private sector. But they are still hell-bent on selling Sucat power plant instead of fixing it to be used for the benefit of the people,” he said.

To prevent future power problems the next administration should rehabilitate all the state owned power plants and use them at full capacity. It can also build more renewable energy power plants to further augment supply, he said. – Delon Porcalla, Paolo Romero

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