NGCP assures stable power during elections

by Riza T. Olchondra – 12:40 AM December 24th, 2015

from Philippine Daily Inquirer

A STABLE power supply is assured for the national elections next summer but it will be tight for the rest of the year.

This means electricity distribution utilities will have to make preparations for their respective franchise areas, such as power contracting and demand management.

The National Grid Corp. of the Philippines, in a power situation update to stakeholders, indicated there will be enough power reserve in the first half of 2016, particularly during the national and local elections on May 9, 2016.

NGCP’s simulation already considers the lack of rain that comes with the El Niño phenomenon, which has hampered output from the country’s hydroelectric power plants. El Niño, which has reached its peak, is seen to continue to affect the country from January to June 2016.

The grid system operator said it is optimistic there won’t be any unscheduled outages, called forced outages in the energy industry, during the crucial months. In the four weeks following the national elections, the required reserve levels will be met through the activation of the Malaya power plants.

Energy Secretary Zenaida Monsada said it is important to ensure continuous power supply during the elections, although this would mean that a number of power plant shutdowns will have to be fitted into the schedule for the remaining months of 2016.

Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) president and CEO Oscar S. Reyes acknowledged some rescheduled power plant shutdowns have been scheduled next year, but most of it are in the second half. Meralco serves Metro Manila and nearby provinces, where a large number of voters live.

Controlling the shutdowns in the first half “will put some tightness in the market because [those were originally] in their schedule. If schedules change, and there are more overlaps, then that tightness becomes, well, tighter,” Reyes said.

In Luzon, peak demand is seen to happen after election week, during the May 14 to 20 period, with 9,365 megawatts (MW) expected as so-called system load.

Another election period that stakeholders are working to keep outage-free is the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections on October 31, 2016.

Reyes said weather is another factor that may affect power supply tightness, especially during the summer months.

In case there would not be enough power supply to meet demand, Reyes said Meralco can call on participating businesses and industries under its voluntary Interruptible Load Program (ILP). “In terms of ILP, we still have maintained about 700 to 800 megawatts (capacity),” he said.

Under the ILP, participants are urged to use their own generator sets to ease power demand during peak times. Easing demand is one way of preventing outages.

Reyes said the tight power supply experienced in 2013 as well as consequent efforts to prevent power shortage have made all power plant operators more diligent in terms of maintenance and regulators more strict in terms of monitoring industry players.

“I think the experience in 2013 has made people realize that plant availability is very critical, and that when we do plant maintenance, it should be done well to prevent problems later on,” Reyes said.