By Myrna M. Velasco
Right after Holy Week observance this year or around third week April, the Department of Energy (DOE) has raised probable ‘red alert’ or extremely tight supply conditions in the country’s power system and if this is worsened by forced outages in power plants, some parts of Luzon grid could be plunged into dreaded rolling brownouts.
Based on internal simulations undertaken by the energy department in collaboration with system operator National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP), the red alert condition or the occurrence of extremely tight supply had been projected between April 18 to 21; and such may also recur around May 20-22.
The energy department indicated there’s a need for capacity addition of 256 megawatts to 821MW “to prevent red and yellow alert conditions” in the power system, especially on the peak days of summer months.
When asked on the power supply-demand forecasts for summer months, Energy Undersecretary Felix William Fuentebella stressed that such would be the “worst case scenarios” they have been looking at, but he assured that array of contingencies are also being sorted out by the department since November last year to prevent any ill-omened occurrence of power interruptions.
He similarly noted that the department has been working on various assumptions – factoring in the various contingency measures that each relevant stakeholder in the sector could present as solutions to the portended dilemma in summer power supply, such as the accelerated contracting of reserve requirements or ancillary services; faster traction on net metering for renewable energy (primarily for solar capacities); widening the participation of the interruptible load program (ILP); promotion of energy efficiency initiatives; and even the deployment of battery storage solutions.
Fuentebella, nevertheless, admitted that the forced outages in power plants would be one thing that’s beyond the department’s control – a similar scenario that had plagued the power system last year when up to 1,800MW of capacity were taken out from the system simultaneously due to unscheduled shutdown of power plants.
“The projections are being adjusted based on the contingencies that are ongoing,” the energy official stressed. Based on forecasts, peak demand will hit roughly 12,000MW for Luzon grid this year; but expected capacity addition will not be coming on-line as anticipated.
Fuentebella said “there is continuous conduct of CSPs (competitive selection processes) by the distribution utilities,” and he said all parties involved are also being reminded to strictly adhere to the timelines set forth under the Energy Virtual One-Stop Shop (EVOSS) Act which streamlines processes of approvals by concerned government agencies.
He said the DOE is also strictly enforcing its Circular on Grid Operating and Maintenance Program (GOMP) to calibrate the shutdown schedules of power plants, mainly for these not to coincide with the summer months or when system supply is seen hovering at critical levels.
Fuentebella similarly noted the department is “closely monitoring power plants that are due or undergoing testing and commissioning.”
The DOE official further emphasized they are “fast-tracking service contract applications in accordance with EVOSS and the Department Circular on the Omnibus Guidelines in the award and administration of renewable energy service contracts.”