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Power deficit seen until May

April 21 ------ The power supply remained critical yesterday, a situation which could last until May as the crippling impact of El Niño worsens. A report by the Manila-based think tank Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities (ICSC) titled “Philippine Power Outlook: Reviewing the Adequacy of Power Supply for April to June 2024” revealed that the power supply, especially in the Luzon grid from 13 to 26 May, would likely remain thin. “As El Niño reduces the available capacity from hydroelectric power plants, all baseload power plants need to be compliant with the approved Grid Operating and Maintenance Program of the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) and the Department of Energy,” ICSC chief data scientist and co-author of the report Jephraim Manansala said. “Any unplanned outages may further deplete operating reserve levels and affect the grid’s reliability,” Manansala added. 


For the second straight day, a yellow alert was raised in Luzon from 1 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Wednesday. Eighteen power plants went on forced outage, while three others ran on derated capacities, which slashed 1,969.3 megawatts (MW) from the grid. According to NGCP, the available capacity of the Luzon grid was only 13,607 MW, while peak demand was recorded at 12,874 MW. This left only a margin of 733 MW. Similarly, the Visayas was initially placed under yellow alert from 1 p.m. to 10 p.m. as 13 power plants remained on forced outage while five others ran on derated capacity, which cut about 698 MW capacity from the grid. However, by 7 p.m. yesterday, the NGCP had raised a red alert from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. and revised the yellow alert to between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. 


In the Visayas, the available capacity was only 2,713 MW but the peak demand was logged at 2,523 MW, which left only a 190 MW margin. 


Recommendations raised 

Amid the fluctuating power supply, the ICSC said that an Interruptible Load Program (ILP) could be implemented to augment the power supply during yellow and red alerts. However, resorting to the ILP means that the power supply had already deteriorated, signaling the grave reality of our power supply’s vulnerability. 


ICSC also recommended demand-side management as an immediate measure to address looming power issues this quarter, highlighting the need for contribution and collaboration among all stakeholders, especially the government, power plant operators, and consumers to ensure more affordable, reliable and secure energy for all Filipinos. 


In a media briefing, Meralco spokesperson Joe Zaldarriaga said the industry should work on generating more capacity to avert a power crisis. “Everybody agrees that what we need is additional [power] capacity in the system. That means more power plants going on stream, especially new ones,” Zaldarriaga said. “Since we were forced to deal with manual load dropping, the demand has outstripped the supply. If that is the situation, we have to try and shape the demand through various initiatives,” he added. 


19 hydro plants down 

Meanwhile, the Philippine Independent Power Producers Association clarified that the majority of the 19 power plants in the Luzon grid that were on outage were hydro plants, where outages could occur during the summer when water levels are low. It added that its member-generators had submitted the reports required in instances of unplanned outages and continue to prioritize efforts in further strengthening the resilience of their generation assets. “However, additional capacities are needed, supported by policies conducive and fair to capital-intensive investments. Towards this end, the current regulatory framework relating to merchant plants, government approvals, price caps, and the reserve market may be enhanced to allow economically feasible operations by investors,” PIPPA said. 


Monitoring required 

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. earlier ordered the DoE to closely monitor and manage the power supply situation in Luzon. “In light of the recent Red and Yellow Alerts in the Luzon Grid, I have instructed the Department of Energy to closely monitor and coordinate with all stakeholders to address the situation,” Marcos wrote on X (formerly Twitter) on Tuesday evening. 


The red alert declaration means that the power supply all over Luzon would be incapable of meeting the consumer demand after 19 power plants went on forced outages. A yellow alert is issued when the scheduled or unscheduled operating margin will not be available to meet the regulating body requirements or some part of the contingency requirement of the transmission grid. Marcos directed all government offices, without exception, to take the lead in the conservation of energy and keeping power consumption to a minimum. This proactive approach aims to alleviate the strain on the grid and mitigate the risk of further disruptions. “At this time, it is crucial that we all work together to ensure a stable power supply for the next couple of days. Let’s adopt energy-efficient practices and stand together to overcome this challenge,” Marcos said. 


On Wednesday, NGCP placed the systems for Luzon and the Visayas on yellow alert after more than 30 power plants were either not working or were only working at low levels. The NGCP said there are 13,607 megawatts of available capacity in Luzon, but the peak demand is expected to be 12,874 megawatts. In the Visayas, there are 2,713 megawatts of available capacity, but the peak demand is expected to be 2,523 megawatts. 




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