ILP averts power outage in Meralco franchise areas

by Lenie LecturaApril 26, 2016

from Business Mirror

HOW do you keep electricity consumers happy? By keeping the brownouts at bay, of course, like what happened in Manila Electric Co.  (Meralco) franchise areas on April 15.

Manual Load Dropping (MLD), or rotating power outages because of low power supply, was averted within the Meralco franchise areas because the utility firm had activated its Interruptible Load Program (ILP).

The program involved 121 ILP participants that voluntarily deloaded 247 megawatts (MW) of capacity, according to Meralco.

With the implementation of ILP after a red alert issued by the system grid operator, the estimated deloaded contribution of 247 MW from the ILP participants helped avert rotating brownouts, Meralco Spokesman Joe Zaldarriaga said.

“We were able to prevent power interruptions that could have affected close to 300,000 customers last April 15,” he said.

But Meralco has to compensate these ILP participants. Compensation will be realized via collection of additional generation charge from Meralco customers.

“For the deloading last April 15, we estimate that compensation to ILP participants would be about P500,000 to P600,000. This would be equivalent to an add-on to the generation charge of around P0.0002 per kilowatt-hour [kWh], if the total is collected in one month,” Meralco Head for Utility Economics Lawrence Fernandez told the BusinessMirror.

“But if conform forms from participants are returned over two or three months, as past experience suggests, then the recovery will be spread out correspondingly and the add-on rate will be smaller,”  Fernandez added.

ILP works by calling on business customers with loads of at least 1 MW to run their own generator sets, if needed, instead of drawing power from the grid.

 With the ILP, power supply from the grid that will not be consumed by participating customers will be available for use by other customers within the franchise area. Through this, the aggregate demand for power from the system is reduced to a more manageable level, helping ensure the availability of supply.

 With ILP, the peak demand was arrested at a lower level of 9,416 MW on April 15. The high and increasing heat index triggered an unusual rise in demand for power, where Luzon alone reached around 9,700 MW to breach historical records, according to the Department of Energy (DOE).

 This prompted the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP) to issue a red alert in Luzon from 1 to 3 p.m. The red alert was lifted at 3:01 p.m. and NGCP placed Luzon on yellow alert once more that day.

The government-owned Malaya thermal power plant in Rizal also helped avert a power outage in Luzon.

 According to the DOE, the Malaya power plant is already on stream as a must-run unit during weekdays, where power demand is higher compared to weekends. Currently, the plant’s Unit 1 provides 290 MW of capacity, while the Unit 2 is still starting up and is expected to be online on Tuesday night to augment the power supply in Luzon.

 A must-run unit must provide needed power supply on real-time basis to ensure reliability of power supply in the grid, especially when there’s a shortfall.

 But Energy Secretary Zenaida Monsada said it is more economical for the Malaya plant to be placed on stand-by and activated only when needed. This, she added, entails additional cost because the plant needs fuel. 

“There is really additional cost involved in running the Malaya plant and placing it on standby. Since it takes eight hours to start the plant running, it would be cheaper to have it on standby. It’s not wise to have it turned on and turned off. It still entails cost,”  Monsada said. 

Consumers, she cautioned, should not complain if power rates do increase as a result of the mitigating measures implemented by the government and the private sector. “Tayong mga consumers, ayaw natin ng mataas ang presyo ng kuryente. Pero alin ba ang mas importante? May kuryente na may kamahalan or walang kuryente?”