Luzon power demand starting to pick up

by Myrna Velasco, 07 April 2015
from Manila Bulletin

Power demand in Luzon grid has started inching up, prompting industry players to re-assess the “probable criticality” of the situation in the coming weeks.

Based on data from the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP), system peak demand as of Tuesday had been at 8,006 megawatts versus available capacity of 9,487MW.

At that time, the reserve level was still considerably “bearable” at 1,158 megawatts – but it could already be reckoned as critical because any tripping of two big units of power plants could somehow ignite power interruptions.

Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho L. Petilla has been raising anew alarm bells on possible descent of brownouts in the grid – but the industry players are getting even more prudent when it comes to the operation of their power plants.

Since last year the concern had been more on Luzon grid, but the power system’s “unwanted surprise” on Easter Sunday had been the Mindanao blackouts.

But Petilla maintained that Luzon and the other grids could still be distressed with rolling power interruptions if forced outages will happen at some power plants – leading to capacity loss in the system.

The reserve level in the grid would be relatively important because it could plug capacity that may be taken out from the system once unscheduled shutdowns of power plants due to factors such as tripping and other technical glitches would hit.

According to industry sources though, the feared rotating brownouts during the March 15-April 13 shutdown of the Malampaya gas production may already be a “remote possibility” – noting that based on power supply-demand outlook, that purported critical phase in the system may be waded through without the much-anticipated hitches.

The next focus of industry evaluation then would be the spikes in summer demand because the rising temperatures have been triggering uptick also in electricity consumption.

In the Visayas grid, reserve level is critically low at 189 megawatts – given system demand of 1,468 megawatts versus available capacity of 1,657MW.

For Mindanao, it still had zero reserve as of Tuesday as the hydro plants – being the grid’s major source of power – already reported capacity de-rating.

The new power plants are still gearing up for commissioning phases and may only be depended upon for tangible additional capacity toward the latter part of the year.