Editorial: Power Outages

from Manila Standard Today, 06 March 2015


Metro Manila and the rest of Luzon will not likely be spared by power outages starting this month, given the limited electricity supply available in the grid.

Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla is praying no more power plants will bog down during the duration of the dry season, when most hydro-electric power plants cannot be relied on. Scheduled maintenance works and inefficient aging plants have reduced the power generating capacity of Luzon by 631 megawatts, or roughly the same output of one major station.

Petilla fears that an unexpected shutdown of just one power plant will result in brownouts in Luzon due to the thin reserves of the grid. Luzon will actually face a 200-MW shortage starting March 15, when the Malampaya natural gas facility in northwest Palawan goes on a 30-day maintenance shutdown. The Malampaya gas field supplies about 2,700 MW of power to three major plants in Batangas province.

The private sector, through the so-called interruptible load program, is expected to fill in the supply gap of 200 MW this month. The program calls on major industrial and commercial consumers of electricity to de-load from the grid and use their own power generating sets to avoid blackouts.

But blackouts, Petilla conceded, are still possible if more plants go on unexpected forced outages.

Manila Electric Co. this early warned that increased demand, coupled with plant shutdowns, might translate into higher electricity rates in March.

More expensive and less dependable power plants are taking the place of those cut off from the grid as a result of their scheduled repairs. Meralco noted that with some baseload plants like the coal stations in Masinloc, Zambales and Quezon unable to contribute to the grid, generations rates were starting to increase at the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market.

Electricity rates are bound to increase in the face of tight supply and increased demand in hot weather. Authorities must ensure rates will not spike because of the thin power reserves. The government, too, should be a better energy manager the next time around to avoid a critical situation in which blackouts are likely to occur.

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