DOE admits ‘brownout possibilities’ in May

Published January 25, 2022, 4:05 PM

by Myrna M. Velasco

The Department of Energy (DOE) has admitted the inevitable possibility of “red alert” condition in the Luzon grid that could trigger rotational brownouts for consumers in the two weeks after the election period in May.

In a presentation to the media, DOE Director Mario C. Marasigan noted that based on their updated forecast, occurrence of “red alert” or extremely strained power reserves for Luzon could be on the weeks of May 16 and May 23, and this would be the period right after the May 9 elections.

Department of Energy

“The red alerts may happen May 16 and May 23, the two succeeding weeks after the May 9 elections,” the energy official reiterated.

Nevertheless, Marasigan qualified that the DOE has been scouring for possible solutions that they can tap into including importing at least 100 to 200-megawatt capacity from the Visayas grid via the high voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission interconnection and the possible 400MW capacity addition that can be injected during the testing and commissioning of Unit 2 of the 668MW Dinginin coal-fired plant.

Other possible solutions are the new power facility of San Miguel Energy Corporation in Mariveles, Bataan and the re-scheduling to June of the preventive maintenance shutdowns of the Kalayaan and San Roque hydro plants.

“Without forced outages, we really don’t have a problem. But if we see forced outages, on the average, we have also solutions and we are looking into those solutions to be made available especially since we have this forecast,” Energy Undersecretary Felix William B. Fuentebella told reporters.

He added that “the forecast will vary because the situation will also vary, it depends. But at least, we have a game plan…on coordination, we also added the ERC (Energy Regulatory Commission) because the ERC can see which plants are applying for connection for testing and commissioning. We can really make sure that we are aligned during elections because we want credible elections and we have to give it our full force. The DOE will coordinate all of these even if the private sector (players) are the real frontliners.”

On forced outages of power plants, Energy Assistant Secretary Redentor Delola emphasized that what they factored in had just been the yearly average of 536MW and not the 2,000 to 3,000MW which had been the historical peak of forced outages and generation de-rating during the high-demand months of summer.

“For the entire year, that’s 536MW — that’s the average forced outage level that we had for the previous years. That’s what we factored in, that’s why there’s red alert (in the forecast)…so, if we assumed the largest forced outages of last year, we will really have red alerts,” Delola pointed out.

On generation de-rating because of gas supply restriction from Malampaya, he specified that the output of the 1,200MW Ilijan plant had already been reduced by 540MW and that has been integrated in the updated DOE power supply-demand outlook.

In a related development, the Senate Committee on Energy indicated that it will be placing the DOE on another round of intense scrutiny to gauge the true state of electricity supply in the main power grid of Luzon especially during the summer months which will also coincide with the country’s Presidential elections.

Senate Committee on Energy Chairman Sherwin T. Gatchalian conveyed that they are scheduling to “conduct an inquiry next month on the plans and preparations of the DOE and other stakeholders to ensure that there will be no brownouts during the week of the conduct of elections four months from now.”

The solon sternly called on the energy department “to address the power supply situation in the country before it gets worse.”

He said of all agencies of government and among all relevant stakeholders in the power sector, it is the DOE that has “the legal mandate and power to compel industry players to follow policies on energy security.”

Gatchalian recalled that the initial reaction of Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi was to toss the responsibility to system operator National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) as to what it intends to do to address thin summer power supply.

For that though, the lawmaker stressed that “the DOE sounds inutile by passing the blame. It’s their job to assure the public on the sufficiency of power supply.”