Red Alerts still threaten Luzon until June 10

NGCP facility 2

Power consumers in Luzon, including Metro Manila, still have to brace for rotating brownouts this coming week, as the Department of Energy (DOE) warned of Red Alerts until June 10.

During the House Committee on Energy’s hearing on Friday, DOE Electric Power Industry Management Bureau Director Mario Marasigan pointed out that the forecasted available capacity from June 4-10 stands at 12,049 megawatts (MW), while projected peak demand is at 11,645MW for a gross reserve (GR) of 404MW.

Unfortunately, the GR is below the required regulating reserve (RR) of 466MW, as well as the contingency and dispatchable reserves of 647MW each. Red Alerts are declared when a grid’s RR goes below 400MW. Operating deficiencies were reported during the Red Alerts, which lasted from May 31-June 2.

Reserves are expected to be boosted by June 11 with the return of the Pagbilao coal power plant’s 382MW Unit 2 and the GNPower Mariveles plant’s 316MW Unit 2 in the next few days. GNPower Mariveles Unit 2’s shutdown on Tuesday particularly triggered the longer Red Alerts.

Meanwhile, the DOE once again pushed power players to fully comply with its policy of having ancillary services (AS), in compliance with Republic Act 9136 or the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA). Simply said, AS acts like a “spare tire,” keeping a grid stable and averting rotating brownouts even if power plants break down.

“Under our concession, we should have the 2,000MW reserve. Kulang na kulang po ‘yan. Yung pagkawala ng mga planta ng [2,019MW], aggravated pa rin ito ng pagkawala ng [ancillary services],” Energy Sec. Alfonso Cusi said during Malacanang’s press briefing on Thursday.

The DOE attempted to institute the AS through a department circular issued in 2019, which required the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines to have firm contracts, including the negotiation of non-firm to firm contracts. As of December 2020, however, the grid operator has failed to comply with the required firm AS contracts.

“The policy has been laid down. The capacity build-up has been there,” Cusi emphasized.