Politics

DoE expects 12 yellow alerts in Luzon grid

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Workers install post insulators on an electric post along Commonwealth Ave. in Quezon City, June 18, 2021. — PHILIPPINE STAR/ MICHAEL VARCAS

LUZON’S POWER GRID is likely to experience deficient reserves for seven months this year which may result in 12 yellow alerts, the Department of Energy (DoE) said on Monday, as it ruled out red alerts that lead to rotating brownouts.

DoE Undersecretary Rowena Cristina L. Guevara said at a virtual press briefing on Monday that some power plants in Luzon may experience forced outages that would reduce available capacity by 500-600 megawatts (MW) this year.

The yellow alerts are anticipated to take place during the summer months — April to June, as well as during the September-to-November period.

Data provided by the DoE showed that one yellow alert is expected to be raised in March, two in April, four in May, two in June, one in September, one in October and one in November.

The DoE noted the Luzon grid is expected to experience peak demand of 13,125 MW in May. The entire month of May is considered a critical period due to a likely surge in power demand as the country experiences higher temperatures.

Ms. Guevera said the Visayas is likely to experience five yellow alerts, mostly in the evening, by the second half of the year. The Visayas is unlikely to see red alerts or rotating brownouts, she added.

The Mindanao grid will have sufficient power reserves for this year, Ms. Guevara said.

Yellow alerts are issued when reserves fall below a designated safety margin. Red alerts are raised when the supply-demand balance deteriorates further, signaling the possibility of rotational brownouts.

Energy Secretary Raphael P.M. Lotilla urged the public to practice energy efficiency in order to mitigate the impact of the projected yellow alerts.

“Demand side management is a necessary element in our entire power supply. If we continue to practice energy efficiency then we don’t have to develop new power plants. If the energy consumption will be more efficient, we don’t need diesel power plants, which use expensive imported fuels,” he said.

Mr. Lotilla said demand-side management should not be considered as a “band-aid” solution, but should be considered as the norm.

“If we are to operate a diesel power plant at 420 MW, the yellow alerts will go down from 12 to one. But diesel power plants are very expensive and may result to an increase in cost of per kilowatt-hour rate thus, we suggest demand-side management,” Ms. Guevara said.

The DoE said several new power plants are set to go online this year. Solar accounts for the biggest share with 480.5 MW, followed by coal (250 MW), wind (110 MW), geothermal (46 MW), hydro (31.36 MW), oil (11 MW), and biomass (7.4 MW).

“If it wasn’t for the pandemic then our RE (renewable energy) plants will be online by now but due to the pandemic their construction have been delayed and our projection for this year’s power outlook will be different,” Ms. Guevara said.

Even if the DoE factored in the scheduled maintenance shutdown of Malampaya gas field, Ms. Guevara said a red alert is unlikely to be declared unless a power plant with a capacity of about 100-200 MW would experience a forced outage.

The Malampaya gas field is expected to go under a maintenance shutdown from Feb. 4 to 18. The DoE said that the maintenance shutdown is necessary and is a regular activity to ensure the continuous supply.

Malampaya supplies up to 27% of the Luzon power grid’s total electricity requirements. During its shutdown, the five power plants with a combined capacity of 3,453 MW will need to run on alternative fuel.

The Malampaya concession will expire by 2024, but Undersecretary Alessandro O. Sales said the consortium already filed for extension in November 2022.

“As part of the procedure of DoE, we required them to submit some documentary, and to establish new terms and conditions that may be applicable to the extended contract. At the moment we are still finalizing the talks,” he added.

The Malampaya gas-to-power project is operated by the Malampaya consortium, composed of the Prime Energy Resources Development B.V. (with a 45% interest), UC38 LLC (45%), and PNOC Exploration Corp. (10%). — Ashley Erika O. Jose