NGCP warns of thin power supply this summer

Published January 18, 2022, 3:46 PM

by Myrna M. Velasco

System operator National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) has raised alarm bells of ‘thin power supply’ during the summer months – April to June.

NGCP forthrightly stated there will be “thin power supply this summer due to higher demand in the new normal,” especially so since the country is now pacing for economic recovery from the blow of the Covid-19 pandemic.

NGCP said that if aggravated by forced outages of power plants and the lingering gas restriction from the Malampaya field, the thin power supply could descend Luzon grid into rotational blackouts.

With power supply getting strained to breaking point, the transmission firm pointed out that one saving grace – especially for the main power grid of Luzon – will be to embrace “energy efficiency and conservation”, which is a demand-side management (DSM) strategy to help shave off electricity consumption particularly on peak periods.

“Thin operating margins – power in excess of demand used to manage and balance the grid – is forecasted in the Luzon grid from April to June, due to increase in demand during the summer months, which includes the critical election period,” the transmission company reiterated.

Based on projections of the Department of Energy (DOE), peak demand this year is anticipated to hit 12,387 megawatts – higher by 747MW from last year’s 11,640MW, which had also been tormented with sporadic service interruptions mainly due to unplanned outages of power plants.

On January 14 this year, the energy department apprised media that it asked NGCP to adjust the schedules of preventive maintenance shutdowns of power plants – purportedly in keeping with the Grid Operating and Maintenance Program (GOMP) being enforced for the power sector.

NGCP, nevertheless, indicated that the 2022 GOMP was already approved by the DOE on January 10 this year – and it was specifically stipulated that there would be “no maintenance shutdowns scheduled during the summer months.”

The transmission firm qualified that in line with DOE’s mandate, it already “coordinated with the generation and distribution sectors so that we could optimize and rationalize our own maintenance schedules, to ensure sufficiency – at least on paper, of power supply throughout the year.”

NGCP said it coordinated with the DOE on the preparation and submission of the annual GOMP and that consolidated the preventive maintenance schedules of power plants – that way, power supply availability, at least in an ideal sense, must keep pace with any escalation in system demand.

As early as January this year, however, more than 2,200 megawatts of capacities were already being taken out from the system due to the combined impact of forced outages of generating facilities and capacity de-rating in other plants due to constrained gas supply.

“On paper, there appears to be sufficient supply to meet demand, but the plan on paper, the GOMP is not always followed,” NGCP explained.

It further noted that “it is when there are scheduled shutdowns and derations, and extensions of maintenance duration, that grid operations may be disrupted enough to warrant the issuance of a grid alert status.”

NGCP emphasized it can only “give an overview of the current supply and demand situation, and endeavor to dispatch any and all available grid resources, it cannot intervene on matters concerning power generation.”