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(Photo: Miguel De Guzman / Philippine Star/ BusinessWorld)
(Photo: Miguel De Guzman / Philippine Star/ BusinessWorld)

Outages linked to failure to expand power plants’ capacity

(PE2 Note: In a BusinessWorld interview of PE2, the Alliance stressed the need for a long-term shift from pure energy conservation efforts to real energy efficiency deployment.)

 

THE MAIN ISLANDS of Luzon and the Visayas on Thursday experienced red and yellow alerts for a third day in a row as the operating margins remained insufficient to meet the grids’ regulating requirement.

Analysts said the forced outages, which involve some aging power plants, were a result of the previous administration’s failure to facilitate the construction of new power plants.

“This can be attributed to past administration’s failure to facilitate new power plants. The uncertainty of power supply can discourage new investments, especially for power intensive industries,” Calixto V. Chikiamco, president of the Foundation for Economic Freedom, said in a Viber message.

Jose M. Layug, Jr., president of the Developers of Renewable Energy for Advancement, Inc., said that there have been forced outages of around 2,500 megawatts (MW) in the past four years during peak or summer months “primarily because of power plants that have been operating for more than 20 years.”

“The previous government did not acknowledge the need to build more capacities and accordingly we are suffering from these red and yellow alerts,” Mr. Layug said in a Viber message.

He said these forced outages will reduce economic and business activity, which “will always negatively impact the economy.”

“Right now, the current DoE (Department of Energy) is doing its best to encourage investors to build more capacities,” he said.

Regulators, however, are still monitoring and collecting information to determine the cause of the power plant outages.

“The Department of Energy continues to closely monitor and coordinate with the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP) and all generation companies during this period of extreme heat where electricity usage is at a record high,” the DoE said in a statement on Thursday.

In an advisory as of Thursday morning, the NGCP said the Luzon grid was placed under red alert status from 3-4 p.m. and 8-10 p.m.

A yellow alert was also raised in the region from 1-3 p.m., 4-8 p.m., and 10-11 p.m.

Available capacity at the grid was 13,397 MW while the peak demand was 12,892 MW, according to the grid operator.

“Nineteen power plants are on forced outage, while one is running on derated capacity, for a total of 1,891.3 MW unavailable to the grid,” the NGCP said.

A yellow alert was placed over the Visayas grid from 1-9 p.m. and was later put on red alert from 6-7 p.m. as of its 2:34 p.m. update.

During the period, available capacity was 2,410 MW while the peak demand was 2,354 MW.

“Thirteen power plants are on forced outage, while nine others are running on derated capacities, for a total of 696.7 MW unavailable to the grid,” the grid operator said.

Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) said that as of 12 p.m., more than 400 MW were available de-loading capacity from its commercial and industrial customers.

Citing the data from the NGCP, the DoE said that both the Luzon and Visayas grids reached all-time high peak demand for the year so far.

Investigation

Monalisa C. Dimalanta, chairman and chief executive officer of the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC), said that they are reviewing the reports from the affected stakeholders before coming up with a preliminary analysis of the incidents.

“Based on our findings, we will formalize the investigation to determine compliance or noncompliance by the relevant stakeholders and implement appropriate measures to impose penalties on any lapses and address issues that may have contributed to the adverse situation,” Ms. Dimalanta said in a statement.

As of 10 a.m. of April 18, around 1,179.52 MW of capacity has been restored in Luzon while around 272.72 MW was restored in the Visayas, according to the ERC.

Overall, a total of 2,671.95 MW of capacity are still on outage.

“We have directed power plant operators to submit to the Commission their estimated timelines for the resumption of their operations, and we will continue to monitor their timely compliance,” Ms. Dimalanta said.

“We are fully aware of the difficulties brought about by these power disruptions and affirm our commitment to a thorough investigation,” she added.

Amid the continued red and yellow alerts, the DoE reiterated its call for the public’s cooperation in “minimizing power consumption, specially at peak hours during the remainder of the hot season.”

Alexander D. Ablaza, president of the Philippine Energy Efficiency Alliance, Inc., said that shifting to more energy efficiency technologies such as solar thermal cooling can be done instead of “depending routinely on energy conservation efforts.”

“While energy conservation is the behavior that is most convenient to promote to mitigate the impacts of power supply deficits, it may not be the easiest for energy end-users to adopt because their quality of life and productivity are compromised,” he said in a Viber message.

Written/Posted by:
Sheldeen Joy Talavera

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