Enough power, but brace for brownouts

By Lenie Lectura -March 8, 2020
from Business Mirror

THE Department of Energy (DOE) has once again allayed fears of yet another looming electricity shortage leading to brownouts this coming dry season, assuring there is stable power supply.

There is no need to worry, DOE assured the public, because the agency has come up with “holistic solutions and contingency measures” to keep power outages at bay.

Industry stakeholders, however, are singing a different tune.

Tight prices

The operator of the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM) declared on January 30 that the Luzon grid is facing tight power supply, and thus anticipates higher spot market prices.

“With the expected increase in demand, tight supply conditions and price spikes are likely to happen, particularly during the summer period. This underscores the need for new generation capacities to meet increasing demand and to help prevent recurrence of high market clearing prices,” said Robinson Descanzo, chief operating officer of Independent Electricity Market Operator of the Philippines Inc. (Iemop).

Luzon, he said, would need an additional 500 megawatts (MW). Using the DOE’s 2016-2040 Power Development Plan Demand Growth Rate, Iemop said power demand in Luzon is forecast to increase 4.9 percent.

“But we don’t have additional power plants coming in before summer. They will come in only after summer,” Descanzo said.

Supply deficiency

A week later, the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) said there is a power supply deficiency of 1,800 to 1,900 MW. The numbers, according to ERC chairman and chief executive officer Agnes VST Devanadera, came from the DOE itself.

While the DOE did not dispute the figures cited by the ERC, DOE assistant secretary Redentor Delola explained that the numbers refer to the least loss of load expectation, or LOLE, of one day, or a “probabilistic measure” of the number of days that the power generation will be insufficient to meet the demand “with adverse conditions present.”

“We need that much if we aim for the least LOLE of one day,” commented Delola.

The ERC chief stressed the importance of new power generation capacity, which the Luzon grid lacks, and well-maintained power plants.

“We cannot build plants. The only thing left for us is, how we dealt with the Supreme Court decision on the 153 PSAs [power supply agreements] that were told to undergo CSP [Competitive Selection Process]—as matter of policy, we told them, don’t stop your supply while you’re doing your CSP,” Devanadera said. “Because if supply stops, as an effect of the Supreme Court decision, that’s 1,000 plus megawatts again on top of the real shortage.”

Red alerts

Two weeks later, the National Electrification Administration (NEA) warned of rotational brownouts that could last for an hour, and thus called on all electric cooperatives (ECs) to prepare their respective contingency plans like the demand-side management programs and maximizing embedded power plants to reduce, if not eliminate, rotating brownouts during peak hours.

NEA administrator Edgardo Masongsong’s warning was based on DOE estimates that red alerts may be issued from April 18 to 21 and May 20 to 22.

A red alert is issued when the power supply in power grids is insufficient and may result in rotational brownouts, or manual load dropping in areas covered by particular grids.

System operator, National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP), issued the same warning and called for the intervention of government agencies to address the power shortage looming over the Luzon grid.