SMC ensures power system reliability with BESS


At a glance

    • SMC Global Power Holdings Corp of the San Miguel group is light years ahead on BESS installations with planned 1,000 MWh aggregate capacity in 32 sites nationwide
    • President Ferdinand Marcos Jr leads the commercial inauguration of the BESS project in Limay, Bataan
    • BESS is a perfect technology coupling to the intermittency of renewables; as well as in advancing reliability in power grid operations
    • Stored energy can shore up capacity during tight supply conditions; and also has potential to lower electricity rates

Rising summer temperatures and threats of power service interruptions amid surging electric bills could really trigger disappointments among us as we yearn for a “more hopeful story” that can rescue us from these predicaments.

On March 31 this year, a bit of that “hope” came to light with the inauguration of the battery energy storage system (BESS) of San Miguel Corporation in Limay, Bataan, part of the nationwide BESS network being developed by the conglomerate which will yield 1,000 megawatt-hours (MWh) of aggregate capacity.

No, we’re not talking about “San Mig Light”, the beverage that the giant firm has been known for; or the ‘bes’ (aka best friend) that can accompany us in gulping down life’s trials and stresses. By parallelism, the newly commissioned BESS project will be the ideal tandem or “best friend” of the power system, so it can operate with higher degree of reliability, not flickering or failing.

And the technology isn’t just a one-trick pony, it can also serve as a solution to the intermittency of variable renewable energy (VRE) generation because the energy stored can plug supply gap when the sun isn’t shining and the wind won’t be blowing.

San Miguel is undoubtedly years ahead versus competitors in this investment space. Its energy investment arm SMC Global Power Holdings Corp. is already eyeing to ramp up installations for this innovative technology solution in at least 32 sites nationwide with ABB Philippines, Fluence, and Wartsila as its engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contractors.

SMC President and CEO Ramon S. Ang enthused “our BESS facilities can instantly increase peak system supply to meet our growing energy demands post-pandemic,” emphasizing that “with BESS providing a significant portion of peak supply, existing baseload plants can run continuously and operate more efficiently, resulting in lower electricity costs for Filipino consumers.”

Simply put, this is akin to having a fridge where you can put your food when you don’t need it; and then you can take it out when you’re hungry so it can give you that much-needed energy boost. But instead of it being delicious, the power drawn from the energy storage will provide you with quality and reliable power supply in times of high demand or dire need – primarily when supply runs tight which will be Luzon grid’s dilemma these summer months.

Within the parameters of power grid operations, generated electricity can be stored during off-peak hours when they are cheaper, then that energy can be dispatched when electricity turns more expensive during peak hours; resulting in lower cost of power.
RE+energy storage: nationally-curated innovative solution

The overall direction of the Department of Energy’(DOE) is for the country to systematically graduate or drift away from decades of fossil fuels’ addiction, but that transition toward massive scale renewables will require not just keen attention from private sector players for capital but also for government leaders to resolve concomitant risks.  Top of these risks is grid vulnerability when capacities from RE technologies are integrated into the power system.

Stored energy in BESS and other storage solutions like flywheels or hydrogen, in particular, can swoop in to save the day by providing ancillary services to the grid, including frequency regulation, reactive power support; and even blackstart capacity to jumpstart the grid from blackouts.

What exactly is reactive power? That’s like the grumpy tech guy in the whole chain of power system operations that its function of converting electrons into useful work is not actually that much known, but synergy of its role is highly necessary to keep the entire system stable, otherwise, the grid could collapse like a house of cards.

Frequency regulation, meantime, is like the conductor of an orchestra who keeps everything in time and on beat. If frequency in the power system goes too high or too low (technically termed as ‘frequency excursions’), it can cause serious problems that can trigger equipment failure. So, these ancillary services have to be properly managed to spare consumers from unwanted brownouts.

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. forthrightly acknowledged that “introducing a storage component into the overall energy infrastructure provides the crucial support mechanism that shall optimize these resources, make them more efficient and reliable.”

Thus, the government highly encourages and approves all of these projects. “As we all know the problems that we have here in the Philippines in terms of energy supply, in terms of energy cost are one of the biggest obstacles when we talk to potential investors to come to the Philippines,” the President said.

Marcos cited the commissioning of SMC’s BESS project as part of the solution that we make the country “competitive” in terms of electricity rates and reliability and availability of power.

“As much as we desire to rely on renewable energy, we know that the electricity generated from sources such as solar, wind, [and] water are sometimes considered intermittent. They cannot function continuously and perfectly, because of inherent factors and other circumstances beyond our control…with this technology in place, storage of power is made possible. Power could be stored when not needed or in times of oversupply, and released whenever required or when there is undersupply,” he said.

Once energy storage investments in the country are put in place, not just by San Miguel but also by other players, the President expects that “this puts us ahead of so many countries in terms of adoption of this technology, which is crucial to our clean energy future.”
Ang said that SMC’s energy storage facilities can support the integration of over 5,000 MW of renewable power sources into the grid. They can store excess energy from traditional and renewable sources during periods of low demand and release it back into the grid when demand increases.

“The solution that we need to help address our most pressing energy concerns is already at our doorstep. This technology represents a major step towards meeting our country’s socio-economic goals sustainably” he said.

“We need to make sure that everyone, regardless of location or socio-economic status, will have access to reliable and affordable electricity, as part of the legacy of the Marcos Administration,” the SMC chief executive noted.

Then as technology advances, energy storage will turn more and more efficient, just like the latest gadgets. On broader swath of technology innovations, energy storage if moved in the right way, could become a powerful force for the benefit of everyone.