DOE chief: Luzon power supply better than expected

April 10, 2015 at 13:37

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THE power situation in Luzon is turning out to be better than expected, meaning, there is just enough supply and reserve to meet consumers’ power needs, mainly on account of cooler temperature during summer.

“This is the only summer I can remember that we have a typhoon in April. Also, it was raining. Basically, it is unusual. This is good because our hydropower plants are not drying up. They are supposed to dry up during this month.  The temperature is also not that high so demand is not yet at its very peak,” Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho L. Petilla observed.

Philippine Independent Power Producers Association President (PIPPA) Luis Miguel Aboitiz had earlier said April 5 to 15 is a critical period in terms of power in Luzon because high demand will coincide with the one-month maintenance shutdown of the Malampaya gas field that will end on April 14.

The Malampaya facility fuels the 1,200-megawatt (MW) Ilijan, 1,000-MW Santa Rita and the 500-MW San Lorenzo natural gas plants, which provide around 40 percent of the Manila Electric Co.’s (Meralco) supply requirements.

The Malampaya facility will be back online next week.

“Even if the shutdown period ends in a couple of days from now, we are not relaxing. There could be a change in the weather. Summer could be extended until June and July. Given the climate change, we have to be prepared for it,” Petilla said.

Based on the Department of Energy’s (DOE) weekly forecast, Petilla said there is “plenty of reserve now.”

“We are still going to be ok at this point. The hydropower plants are performing well. We have a good weather. All these things are coming into play. But, should we relax? Of course not,” the energy chief said.

Based on DOE’s latest data, Luzon will need an additional 782 MW to cover both supply deficit and required reserves.

Energy Undersecretary Zenaida Monsada said the current-power supply can meet demand.

“We hope that there will be no unscheduled shutdown of power plants because that will have an impact on our reserves. We have enough supply and reserves provided that no power plants conk out all at the same time,” Monsada said when sought for comment.

Preparations to avert or at least minimize power outages have been under way since the third quarter last year.

These include granting President Aquino special powers to address the potential power supply shortage through an enactment of a joint resolution.

But Congress already went on a six-week vacation without passing the proposed resolution.

“It’s unfortunate that the joint resolution was not finalized before we went on recess. The issue on who shall pay for the ILP [Interruptible Load Program] costs was not yet addressed,” House Energy Committee Chairman and Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali said in a text message.

Under the program, big consumers will run their power-generator sets, instead of drawing from the grid, in exchange for compensation.

Aboitiz said it was up to the legislators to determine if consumers or the government—via Malampaya funds—should shoulder the costs.

“That’s the main concern. Senate wants the consumers to pay for it and I agree so that consumers would be aware how to save on electricity and, therefore, consume and pay less,” Aboitiz said separately when sought for comment.

The ILP is a government program, where private companies with their own power-generating facilities can be tapped to supply additional power to the national grid if there is a shortage.

As of latest count, Meralco has signed up more participants for the ILP, bringing to 667.29 MW of committed interruptible load  (CIL) for the summer.

It has registered 80  customers from the private sector that will contribute 393.36 MW of capacity. It, likewise, signed up 1.7 MW of CIL from the government sector.

Contestable customer participants, or those with a monthly average peak demand of at least 1 MW, have signed up a total of 264.73 MW of interruptible load. Of which, 110.44 MW will come from different Retail Electricity Suppliers  and 154.29 MW from MPower, the retail electricity supplier unit of Meralco.

With or without the joint resoluion, the DOE and industry players have done all they can to prepare for an anticipated power shortage in Luzon this summer.

“We are confident that we can get through summer without any problem, although the joint resolution could have helped, as well,” Petilla said.

The DOE has also launched the “Energy Sense, Saves Cents” campaign to promote energy conservation in residential and commercial areas.

It is encouraging consumers to set their aircon thermostat at 25 degree Celsius particularly from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on weekdays, the peak hours for the Luzon grid.

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