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Worst case: 3 months of outages in 2015

DOE predicts power supply shortfall of up to 1,200MW
/ 02:39 AM October 14, 2014
Jericho Petilla

DOE Secretary Jericho Petilla. AP FILE PHOTO

Luzon may face up to 13 weeks of power outages in the summer of 2015, according to estimates of the Department of Energy (DOE).

In a report on various power supply and demand scenarios for the anticipated power crisis, DOE said there may be five to 13 weeks between March and June 2015 when the Luzon grid goes on red alert, which means rotating power outages in various areas, especially during peak hours.

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Although Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla has said repeatedly that outages are not expected to be “massive,” there are concerns on the frequency and length of such outages—whether it would be on a daily basis during the weeks identified, and how long each outage will last.

The DOE has said this will depend on various factors, such as the impact of drought (which affects hydroelectric power plants); power consumption; how much of demand from the grid is eased by consumers using generator sets; and any new or restored capacity from power plants.

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In DOE’s report, the so-called Scenario 1 —which assumed enough water supply for hydroelectric power as well as maintenance and forced outages among power generation plants—estimates a shortfall of about 600 megawatts (MW) from the grid. Under this scenario, the Luzon grid could go on red alert status for five weeks.

That would be on the first two weeks of April and last three weeks of May. While on red alert, Luzon will likely experience power outages in various areas. Under the same scenario, there would be nine weeks under a yellow alert status, namely, on the last three weeks of March; last week of April; first week of May; and all four weeks of June.

Scenario 2—which assumes that there may be some water supply constraints on hydroelectric power combined with maintenance and forced outages—estimates 700 MW of shortfall in the grid. That is, 600 MW plus 100 MW of lost capacity from hydroelectric power plants.

That could result in seven weeks of red alert in the grid. That could be on the fourth week of March, first two weeks of April, and all four weeks of May. Under the same scenario, there would be eight weeks of yellow alert, namely, on the first, third, and fifth weeks of March; the fourth week of April; and all four weeks of June.

Scenario 3—which assumes a mild drought due to the El Niño phenomenon, as well as maintenance and forced outages—estimates 800 MW of shortfall in the grid. That is, 600 MW plus 200 MW of lost capacity from hydroelectric power plants. That could result in seven weeks of red alert in the grid, on the same weeks as Scenario 2. Under the same scenario, there would be eight weeks of yellow alert, namely, on the first and third weeks of March; the last two weeks of April; and all four weeks of June.

Scenario 4—which considers the possibility of extreme drought, along with maintenance and forced outages—estimates 1,200 MW of shortfall in the grid. That is, 600 MW plus 600 MW of lost capacity from hydroelectric power plants.

That could result in 13 weeks of outages: the last three weeks of March, first two weeks of April, and all weeks through May and June. Under the same scenario, the grid could be on yellow alert on the first week of March and the last two weeks of April.

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Only the second week of March seems safe from power outages under all scenarios.

To cope with imminent outages, the DOE said it could contract back-up power at the cost of about P6 billion, call on participants in the Interruptible Load Program (ILP) ease demand at peak hours through the use of generator sets, and manage demand by initiating power saving measures.

The DOE endorsed President Aquino’s call for emergency powers to be able to contract back-up power for the summer.

This may be authorized by the Senate and the House of Representatives through a joint resolution, which is expected to be released this month.

There are also calls for the DOE to lift the secondary cap in the energy spot market to free up about 1,000 MW of capacity from peaking plants that find it unviable to run under the current system of having two layers of price controls. However, government has all but ruled out the lifting of the secondary price cap at the moment as some sectors say its removal could result in price spikes such as in the fourth quarter of 2013.

DOE has issued Circular No. 2004-08-0014, called “Enjoining all Electricity-Consuming Sectors to Implement Demand-Side Management Program and other Energy Conservation Measures.” The circular, which was signed last August 11, 2014, urges all sectors to voluntarily implement energy conservation measures to reduce the country’s demand for supply of electricity. The conservation program excludes hospitals, military installations, and airports, among other facilities.

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