By Myrna Velasco
With the extended forced outage of the Sual coal-fired power plant, Luzon grid was placed on three-hour red alert again Monday, indicating that power supply in the grid is still wobbly and consumers could be hit with brownouts. But with cooler weather temperatures in the afternoon, it was lifted at 3 p.m., although the yellow alert declaration stayed until 8 p.m.
System operator National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) initially raised ‘red alert’ condition in the grid from 1:01 to 4 p.m. which is the afternoon peak of usage of consumers.
“Red alert” is that condition in the grid when power reserve is being crushed to zero or negative levels, meaning if any of the other plants trip, there is already a deficiency in supply thus rotating brownouts are being implemented.
Throughout the day, “yellow alert” declaration was also set for three durations: from 9:01 a.m. to 1 p.m.; then from 4:01 to 5 p.m.; and from 6:01 to 8 p.m. which will traverse the “telenovela hours” of Filipino televiewers. This condition still indicates precarious power supply situation in the grid.
This is already the fourth time this month that a ‘red alert’ situation was raised in the biggest power grid in the country – a situation that is not only afflicting individual consumers but the Philippine economy in general.
Three other plants are still on unplanned outages: including unit 2 of SMC Consolidated Power Corporation of the San Miguel group; Unit 2of Southwest Luzon Power Generation Corporation of the Consunji Group; and Unit-3 Pagbilao plant of the Aboitiz Group and TeaM Energy Corporation.
Meanwhile, given the validation of data and the internal probe of the spot market operator on the forced outages of power plants and alleged collusion among generation companies (GenCos), the Department of Energy (DOE) indicated that it will elevate the outcome of its investigation as well as the contingency measures to President Duterte.
Energy Undersecretary Felix William B. Fuentebella said the department will invoke the DOE’s mandate on any move to bring the ‘brownout issues” and its causes to the President’s attention.
“It’s bothersome to us – the DoE, but we are also working doubly hard to deliver the power requirements to the public – this is all we can say, all information we can get, we will give it to the ERC (Energy Regulatory Commission), PCC (Philippine Competition Commission), Congress and most especially to the President,” the energy official said.
Fuentebella said both the operator of the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM) and its market surveillance committee will be directed to come up with computation so the department can already be apprised of the cost impact on consumers.
Another matter that the energy department will raise with Malacanang is the “emergency procurement” of power supply by distribution utilities from GenCos that could beef up the electricity needs of the power system before the holding of elections next month.
“There’s a chance the DOE can push ERC to clear all pending PSAs (power supply agreements) – that’s one of the things we want to resolve,” he stressed.
In the forecast of NGCP, demand during the ‘red alert’ hours will climb to as high as 10,619 megawatts versus available capacity of 10,669 MW, and the power supply-demand situation could leave Luzon grid with a negative reserve of 362 MW.
At least on the part of Manila Electric Company (Meralco), it has been counting on the support of the interruptible loads or those end-users with their own generating sets to help ease supply situation in the grid.
The DOE further emphasized that “any additional forced outage or de-rating of plants will worsen the situation,” but it is similarly leaning on the interruptible loads as well as consumers’ participation on saving energy as the measure to save the power grid from new round of blackouts.
“To avert the possibility of power interruptions during the red alert status, the energy family will implement the interruptible load program (ILP),” the department has reiterated.