Thin Power Reserves Threatening Luzon in Crucial Election Months


By Karl R. Ocampo. Originally published on

MANILA, Philippines — The Luzon grid is facing thinning power reserves in the months leading to the elections if the current power supply will not be augmented, according to the Independent Electricity Market Operator of the Philippines (IEMOP).

Sans new energy sources, IEMOP simulations showed 67 yellow alert warnings could plague Luzon between March and June.

A yellow alert signals the thinning of power reserves that could eventually lead to the issuance of a red alert and force the grid operator to implement rotational brownouts similar to summer last year.

Iemop’s readings, which were also based on the Department of Energy’s (DOE) forecast report, showed there would be adequate power supply in the Visayas and Mindanao region.

Data from Iemop showed that the country’s supply margin for the period may fall between 575 megawatts and 641 MW against the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines’ recommended reserve margin of 1,200 MW.

IEMOP’s projections factored in a 1,000-MW forced outage during the period to accommodate any unscheduled shutdowns, derations and maintenance of power plants.

The DOE earlier said that additional capacity may be injected by Aboitiz Power Corp.’s Dinginin coal-fired power plant and San Miguel Energy Corp.’s Mariveles coal plant to the Luzon grid.

Factoring in the needed boost from these two, yellow alerts could go down to 52, IEMOP said.

However, both plants are still at their commissioning and testing phases. Aboitiz’s Dinginin units, in particular, may not be fully operational until May next year.

The DOE had said it was already looking at importing at least 100- to 200-MW capacity from the Visayas grid via the high voltage direct current transmission interconnection.

1,355-MW deficit projected

Earlier this month, the Institute of Climate and Sustainable Cities (ICSC) projected a deficit of 1,355 MW in the country’s electricity supply in the months ahead as demand traditionally picks up during summer.

ICSC senior policy advisor Pedro Maniego Jr. said the “unreliable electricity supply would undermine the credibility of the elections.”

Power distribution utilities including Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) said that they were already drawing up contingency measures to ensure that there would be no brownouts during the election period.

It is already in the process of bidding an additional 170 MW to 180 MW of peaking power to meet its baseload requirements following the reduction of supply coming from the Malampaya gas field.

Asked whether Meralco customers could be spared from power interruptions in the coming months, Meralco senior assistant vice president and head of regulatory affairs Ronald Valles said this would still be up to the DOE.

He said that if power supply would be tight outside Meralco’s franchise, the DOE might implement load shedding and this could affect Meralco’s own supply.

Load shedding refers to a power company’s need to reduce its electricity consumption by switching off its supply. This is a way to de-risk the entire power system and prevent longer and larger outages.