Luzon grid under ‘yellow alert’ again

Published July 5, 2022, 10:04 AM

by Myrna M. Velasco

With no top official in-charge at the Department of Energy (DOE), the Luzon grid was again subjected to “yellow alert” or the lack of power reserves that could potentially plunge the country’s main economic center with rotational blackouts.

System operator National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) raised “yellow alert” condition for Luzon grid by 11:00 in the morning, and 2:00 to 4:00 in the afternoon, which are typically the peak-demand hours of power consumption in a day.

Newly installed President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has yet to name his Energy Secretary; while Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) Chairperson Agnes T. Devanadera will retire this month, hence creating a leadership vacuum in the two key agencies of the energy sector.

NGCP reported several power plants that had been on forced outages that resulted in aggregate capacity loss of 1,274 megawatts in the country’s biggest power grid on top of the plants that were also declared on de-rated (reduced) generation.

The generating facilities on unscheduled downtimes had been the 668MW Unit 1 of GNPower Dinginin plant; 316MW unit 2 of the GNPower Mariveles plant; unit 2 of 240MW Calaca plant; and units 3 and 4 for 50MW of the Southwest Luzon Power Generation Corporation.

The system operator similarly noted that unit 1 of the Masinloc coal-fired power plant had been de-rated by 165MW; hence, the total capacity taken out from Luzon grid hovered at 1,439MW.

As explained, a ‘yellow alert’ status of the grid entails insufficiency of power reserves or there will be no enough capacity to be called on for dispatch to cover what is lost in the system. And when the situation worsens, the outcome will be unwanted rotational brownouts.

The series of yellow alerts being experienced in Luzon grid, according to data from the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM), had similarly triggered spikes in settlement prices that will then increase rates in the electric bills of consumers.

In fact, for the June supply month, at least 36 percent of spot market trading intervals had been affected by the secondary price cap, meaning the persistent rate spikes hit the threshold of P9.00 per kilowatt hour (kWh) within the duration of trading intervals prescribed by the industry regulator.

According to ERC Commissioner Floresinda B. Digal said they have already issued “notice to explain to GenCos (generation companies) that went on outages.” She qualified that “we will study first the decision and then Commisison will determine appropriate way forward.”

It is worth noting that several GenCos had been previously penalized by the ERC due to the recurrence of forced outages in their facilities that even caused distressing power interruptions in the Luzon grid in May to June last year.

Industry sources further indicated that the 1,200MW Ilijan gas-fired power plant had also been on shutdown since June 4 after its gas supply and purchase agreement (GSPA) with the Malampaya gas field expired.

Hydro plants, primarily unit 2 of the Kalayaan plant, was likewise out from the system, as well as the Casecnan hydro power facility that had been on outage since October last year.