Brownouts may mar vote canvass – DOE

Published May 3, 2019, 6:58 PM

by Ellalyn De Vera & Richa Noriega

By Myrna Velasco

If forced outages in power plants will persist, the Department of Energy (DOE) expressed fear the canvassing of votes after the May 13 midterm elections may be marred by one-hour rotating brownouts.

RECURRING POWER PROBLEM– Linemen work on high-tension wires in San Juan del Monte n Bulacan. High system demand and the tripping of a power plant triggered another round of red and yellow alerts Friday. (Mark Balmores)
RECURRING POWER PROBLEM– Linemen work on high-tension wires in San Juan del Monte n Bulacan. High system demand and the tripping of a power plant triggered another round of red and yellow alerts Friday. (Mark Balmores)

DOE Assistant Secretary Redentor E. Delola pointed out this “worst-case scenario” when asked on the projected power-supply demand setting for the coming May 13 elections.

“The worst-case scenario, like what happened on April 10, 11 and 12… if we expect that there would still be outages and the demand is higher, then we will have a problem,” Delola said as he also stressed that power interruptions could be “one hour per area.”

Despite this, the DOE remains confident of sufficient power supply on the day of the elections on May 13 because it will be a holiday – so many offices and businesses will be closed, hence, the demand trajectory for electricity will be down.

But the next day, May 14, may be different.

Delola noted that if the scale of forced outages will reach the level as they are today at a maximum of 1,500 megawatts being taken out from the system, he said the situation could turn “problematic” and rotating brownouts may not be avoided.

On the projected one-hour power interruption per area, House Committee on Energy Chairman Lord Allan Velasco indicated that the “integrity of the election results will raise questions if brownouts happen” which could be perilous especially because the administration bets are leading, hence, he urged the DOE for concrete solutions.

While Energy Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi assured the Joint Congressional Power Commission (JCPC) during a hearing last Thursday that power supply will be sufficient during the election period, another power plant in Luzon grid tripped – the 382-megawatt Pagbilao 1 coal-fired power facility of the Aboitiz group.

The incident also prompted the declaration of another round of red alert on Friday (May 3) from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and at 4 p.m.

System operator National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) emphasized that there was “generation deficiency brought about by the high system demand and the outage of the Pagbilao 1 plant.”

The other power plants still on forced outages as of Friday were the 300-megawatt (MW) Calaca-2 coal-fired plant; and the 316 MW GNPOwer 2 power facility.

The unplanned outages of the three plants took out 998 MW capacity from the system, that’s already down from the higher level of 1,500 megawatts the previous weeks.

As such, the Luzon grid will continue to be tormented by red alerts.

Power plants on capacity de-rating or with limited generation “due to low water levels” were the Angat, Pantabangan, Binga and Kalayaan hydroelectric plants, according to NGCP.

“Yellow alert” or strained power reserves in the biggest power grid has been raised from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m.; 11 a.m. to 12 noon; and 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Cusi, who is coincidentally the vice chairman of the administration party PDP-Laban, gave word to the oversight congressional body that all the power facilities on unplanned outages already committed to being synchronized back to the grid by May 4.

This has given him the confidence that electricity supply will be sufficient even if May 14, or the day after the election, will not be declared a holiday.

All power plant maintenance schedules will also cease one week before and after the election period, and the new power plant capacities could also help boost supply.

He said coordination with the Commission on Elections (Comelec) is continuing – and in cases of power interruptions, there are also instructions to distribution utilities that feeders to critical areas, including the voting precincts, will not be touched.