By MYRNA M. VELASCO
The Department of Energy (DOE) assured consumers of “enough power supply,” but it stopped short of admitting that the country’s electricity system is actually on “life support” and can only be saved by “band aid measures” especially during the critical months of April, May and June.
That then prompted energy officials to scramble for stop-gap remedies so they can spare consumers from agonizing rolling brownouts as demand peaks on higher consumption for airconditioning during the summer months.
Various stakeholders of the energy sector – including the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP), the electric cooperatives, and the operator of the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM), which all have direct touch of the operations of the power system, already presented more forthright assumptions on supply-demand conditions during the summer months – aptly cautioning that there would be periods when supply will reach critical levels resulting in brownouts, especially if these are compounded by forced outages of power plants.
But on the part of the DOE, it tended to sugar coat the scenario – although that comes with fervent appeal to consumers to save on their energy usage, which is more akin to asking the Filipino people to temporarily give up the comforts of modern life just to save their faces from not being confronted with power interruptions.
Alongside the plea for energy conservation, the DOE also indicated that it will be asking the interruptible load program (ILP) to be activated, which is parallel to having an oxygen tank so the power system can breath from lack of supply.
The ILP is a government-sanctioned program that requires end-users with generating sets to switch these on and they shall be compensated for running these facilities.
At some point, the DOE admitted that it would be the unplanned outages of power plants that will primarily plunge Luzon grid into brownouts – without it emphasizing that in a prudent, well-run electricity systems, the allowance for such forced outages shall actually be accounted for in the required 20 to 30-percent level of reserves that a power system must strive to sustain.
And manifestly, the DOE has not given assumptions on forced outages of power plants – considering that this is a recurrent problem of the power system for several years already.
The department emphasized that the peak demand for Luzon grid this year is projected to reach 12,285 megawatts; the Visayas grid at 2,519MW; and Mindanao at 2,278MW.
Power demand growth on a yearly basis had been set at 5.0 to 6.0-percent.
“While there is enough power capacity at present, depending on the volume of forced outages, yellow and/or red alerts may be raised,” the energy department noted.
Beyond ILP as well as energy efficiency and conservation, the other band-aid measures being pursued by the DOE would include net metering for consumers who opted to power their homes or businesses with solar installations; and via the initiative of NGCP, the industry will also be administering ILP programs for directly connected customers at economic zones.
Energy Undersecretary Felix William Fuentebella said “these are just contingency measures in the event of forced outages, which are outside of the department’s control and cannot accurately forecast.”
Apart from shaky power supply, consumers will also need to deal with new shocks of probable spikes in electricity prices during the summer months.