DOE: Luzon, Visayas power outlook still OK

by Riza Olchondra, 07 April 2015
from Philippine Daily Inquirer

So far so good. Luzon and Visayas are still able to serve present demand with their available power supply, avoiding outages in the two grids, Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla has said in a briefing.

“The DOE (Department of Energy) has a running four-week estimate which we update regularly. So far, with the temperature not as high as anticipated, and with people cooperating by saving power, Luzon seems OK,” Petilla said.

And since Luzon is interconnected with Visayas, the two can share power, so it follows that Visayas is also “OK,” Petilla said.

Smooth power plant operations and some rainshowers to break the summer heat have helped keep brownouts or power outages at bay in Luzon and Visayas.

But Petilla still would not rule out the possibility of short-term outages or brownouts. Consumers, he said, should not let their guard down and should keep on saving energy.

“May is historically the peak but we are dealing with power plant forced outages, which are unpredictable. And we are dealing with the weather, which is also unpredictable. If the heat increases or if summer is extended, we might still have problems,” Petilla said.

Experts said the possibility increases post-Holy Week as electricity demand is expected to climb with the rising temperature.

“We still have to watch May, when demand peaks. And we have to watch June and even July, because power plants were asked to move their maintenance period to these months in order to avoid summer. If summer gets extended, it could pose risks,” Petilla said.

National Renewable Energy Board (NREB) Vice Chair Ernesto Pantangco earlier said in an energy forum that the critical period from March 15 to April 14 was still under close watch.

“For the past weeks, the temperature increase was not as high as we thought and demand has not been as high as we expected. Hopefully this weather continues. We will see after Holy Week how we will fare,” Pantangco said.

Industry data shows that electricity demand from mid- to end-March averaged about 7,700 megawatts (MW), which is much lower than the expected 8,600MW.

After Holy Week, the next critical period will be in May, when demand is estimated to peak at 9,100MW to 9,400MW.

“Normally that (peak) happens around the third week of May,” Pantangco said.

Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) Executive Director Francis Saturnino Juan said it was also possible for power rates to increase due to the fuel shift of gas plants during the temporary shutdown of the Malampaya gas platform from March 14 to April 15.

If the power situation triggers the Interruptible Load Program (where businesses and industries use their generator sets to ease demand from the Luzon grid), this may also add to the cost of power unless government decides later to shoulder this additional cost.

Earlier, Philippine Independent Power Producers Association Inc. (Pippa) president Luis Miguel Aboitiz said supply was tight from the end of March to end of June and there could be brownouts if more than one major power plant went on forced outage (unexpected shutdown), “but the real time to focus on is April 5 to 15.” RC

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