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Saturday, May 18, 2024

Expect brownouts in May as demand outstrips supply

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The Department of Energy (DOE) expressed concern over the possibility of brownouts as a red alert draws closer due to recent power plant outages and high power demand as the El Niño phenomenon rages.

“How close are we to the red alert, brownouts when we reach the red alert? Well, there is a potential, but as long as we have our contingency measures, this can be avoided,” DOE Assistant Secretary Mario Marasigan said at a press conference.

Since the demand for power had already exceeded their projections earlier than expected, Marasigan assures the public that the DOE had already pegged some adjustments.

“Normally our demand rises towards the last week or end of May or June. But for this year, not only that the peak demands happened on April 24, it also surpassed our projection by almost 100 megawatts,” he said.

As of 1 p.m. on Monday, the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) announced a “yellow alert”” over the Luzon grid from 2 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. to 11 p.m.

The Visayas grid also pegged a yellow alert from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

“The extension of yellow alert in Luzon and declaration of yellow alert in Visayas is due to increase in forecasted demand.” the NGCP said.

According to NGCP, EDC-Leyte A Maha Unit 1 (160MW) also went on unplanned outage at 10:23AM, while power shared through the Mindanao-Visayas interconnection also plunged with the deration of GNPK 4 from 115MW to 61MW.”

NGCP explained that yellow alerts are raised when the operating margin is inadequate to meet the transmission grid’s contingency requirement.

Meanwhile, the country’s biggest power retailer warned that power demand could further spike in May after the actual peak demand reached 9,301 megawatts on April 24, surpassing the 2025 forecast of 9,226 MW.

Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) data showed that actual peak demand in 2023 was at 8,438 MW. Forecasted demand for 2024 was at 8,791 MW.

Meralco senior vice president and head of networks Froilan Savet said the difference in peak demand from last year is at 863 MW, which is greater than the capacity of the highest generating unit (GNPD with 668 MW) in the Luzon grid.

“The demand is expected to rise further in the coming weeks as we enter May, which typically marks the peak demand of the year,” Savet said.

Meralco chairman Manuel Pangilinan called for the construction of more conventional power plants to meet the country’s increasing power demand amid scorching temperatures, which has resulted to red and yellow alerts in the grid.

“You really have to build more capable, more capacities in the system. To be able to accommodate these unexpected changes that could happen, and that is now happening,” Pangilinan said.

He added that participants of the interruptible load program (ILP) helped reduce demand but this is not a sustainable scenario.

He said the lack of available capacity also affected the prices at the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market, the trading floor of electricity.

“There’s supposedly a vibrant spot market, and we can’t do that with sufficient real and dependable capacities available. And we are paying for that in terms of very, very thin reserves,” Pangilinan said.

He said the renewable energy power plants being built today have low-capacity factor thus there is a need for baseload capacities such as coal or gas.

“Whether it be the coal or gas, again, there’s got to be some guidance given to us as to where we should turn,” Pangilinan said. “We need conventional, dependable power plants. So, that we don’t get these crazy situations when one particular large plant is down.”

Meralco executive vice president and chief operating officer Ronnie Aperocho said the company anticipates a challenging power supply situation throughout this dry season, coincidental with the El Niño phenomenon.

“We remain vigilant as we work with energy industry players in implementing demand-side management programs to help lessen the strain on the power grid and continuously deliver stable and reliable service to consumers. We also continue to proactively encourage more participants to join the ILP, which embodies bayanihan among private sector players, as this proves to be valuable during this critical season,” he said.

Amid all the interlocking problems of high demand, power plant outages, and the El Niño phenomenon, President Ferdinand Marcos said there is no “artificial” power crisis in the country.

In an interview, the President said the continuous increase in power supply use was due to the impact of the extremely hot weather.

“No, it’s definitely not an artificial crisis because the power systems are really overloaded,” the President said.

The President assured that the government is closely monitoring the country’s power sector as the red and yellow alerts have been raised in various power grids nationwide.

“Our consumption really spiked, because of the extreme heat,” he explained. “That’s why we’re having issues with different systems that we’re focusing on.”

Moreover, the President said the government already devised a plan to manage the power rate hike due to high electricity consumption.

And that increase in [price], we have plans, strategies so that the electricity prices won’t go up. At least for now, in this time of crisis.

One of the current priorities, he mentioned, involves encouraging the NGCP to construct the transmission lines which are part of the pledge to enhance vital electricity supply, particularly in off-grid areas.

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