Early contingency measures pushed to prevent brownouts

By MYRNA M. VELASCO – January 9, 2020, 10:00 PM
from Manila Bulletin

Energy officials are pursuing advance planning and already laying down contingency measures to prevent the recurrence of brownouts this 2020, especially during the high demand-months of summer.

Energy Undersecretary Felix William Fuentebella noted that the Department of Energy (DOE) has already been sorting out measures since November last year to assure that consumers will not be tormented with electricity service interruptions this year.

The DOE has so far required power plant owners and operators to submit outage schedules on their facilities, so this could be pragmatically incorporated in the energy supply-demand planning and forecasting of the department.

In a related development, Senate committee on energy chairman Sherwin T. Gatchalian prodded the DOE “to discuss outage schedule and reliability of plants to address any grid disturbances or avert future incidence of rotational brownouts in the country.”

Summer is often the most critical period when power reserves could hit breaking points because of demand surge – and if there are no capacities that could be readily dispatched to plug sudden shortfalls in the system, rolling brownouts could ensue and this is not just disastrous to the economy, but it also hits as the lowest form of human suffering that could be inflicted by energy officials upon the Filipino consumers.

Gatchalian finds it uncomforting that the DOE has been issuing early warnings “that the country may experience yet another series of rotational brownouts in summer as a result of thinning power supply.”

In the previous administrations, the Senate energy committee refused to take any chances on supply-demand data being lodged to it by the DOE. Instead, the Congressional body opted to plot its own numbers and assessments to establish where the energy department could have been erring on its planning paradigms.

At this time, Gatchalian is proposing that the DOE “makes full use of the Energy Virtual One Stop Shop (EVOSS) and the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Law to ensure adequate power supply in anticipation of a high demand during the summer season.”

The EVOSS system though may not be as helpful when it comes to power plant development aspects given that summer months are already nearing – except perhaps on the sphere of fast-tracked approval of power supply agreements (PSAs) which is in the domain of the Energy Regulatory Commission. EVOSS nevertheless will be highly relevant for future power development ventures.

On energy efficiency and conservation since this entails lifestyle change mainly on the part of the consumers, the game plan for the DOE is to step up education and information campaign so the end-users could be kept abreast of choices and options on their energy usage.