DOE orders GenCos to ensure power supply during vaccination

Published March 7, 2021, 7:00 AM

by Myrna M. Velasco

The Department of Energy (DOE) is tightening its grip on the power generation companies (GenCos), so they can guarantee sufficient power supply as the Covid-19 vaccination program in the country gains traction.

This is a follow-through order from Energy Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi, after his initial mandate on the distribution utilities (DUs) to ensure that their power services won’t be interrupted or must not be intermittent during the inoculation process of the targeted majority of the population.

Energy Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi

Aside from the private GenCos, the energy chief also directed state-run firms like the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corporation (PSALM) and National Power Corporation (NPC) to take the forefront of making certain that power supply will be ample and seamless, especially during the summer months.

The country’s vaccination program kicked off this week – starting with the medical frontliners, which has been set as a priority based on the list set out by the government.

With the arrival of additional vaccines in the coming weeks and months, it is seen that the summer months will also see the accelerated pace of the inoculation program.

And given that power demand within March-June period usually hits peak because of the scorching weather, the DOE does not want to take any chances, because unwanted occurrences of brownouts may compromise the quality and integrity of the vaccines.

As Cusi stressed, “the DOE is working non-stop to establish an uninterrupted supply of electricity services at the onset of the vaccine rollout by the end of first quarter 2021.”

The energy chief qualified that they have been meeting with relevant stakeholders in the industry “to fortify our strategies.”

It is worth noting that when electricity demand would spike during the summer months, supply is often wobbled by feared simultaneous outages of power plants – that in turn could either lead in tightening of available capacity, or even a worse condition of supply shortfalls – hence, that is a scenario feared by the DOE while the vaccination exercise is ongoing.

Cusi thus called on all GenCos “to provide necessary support for Covid-19 vaccine cold storage and health care facilities, through ensuring the availability of their power plants at their maximum dependable capacity.”

The energy chief specifically reminded the power generating firms “to comply with the 2021 Grid Operating and Maintenance Program,” and for them to operationalize their emergency response protocols and business continuity plans (BCPs) that shall include “utmost prioritization of the vaccines’ cold storage and health care facilities in cases of power outages.”

For the hydropower plants that have cyclical downtrend in generation capacity during summer months, Cusi stated that “management of the water reservoir should be observed to maintain optimal production.” The DOE secretary further noted that in cases where there is a critical need to deploy power generating sets (gensets) and additional backliners, “the GenCos should be ready to coordinate with concerned local government units regarding the locations/stations of the vaccines’ cold storage facilities.”