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Luzon peak energy demand exceeds pre-pandemic level, blackouts possible by May

Peak electricity demand 10 for this year is expected by May according to the Independent Electricity Market Operator of the Philippines (IEMOP), the independent market operator of the Wholesale Electric­ity Spot Market (WESM).

“Peak demand is projected to happen in May, around 12,300 MW. We just entered the summer months. I think our projection will increase for April. With this trend, the peak we experienced in March could still increase in April. For May, our projection is 12,300 MW in Luzon,” said IEMOP Chief Operating Officer Robinson Descanzo.

Last March, Luzon peak demand already reached 11,617 MW. This surpassed pre-pandemic levels, which reached 11,307 MW in June 2019 and 11,601 MW in June 2020. Among other reasons, the IEMOP attributed the increase in energy demand from the relaxing of Covid-related restrictions. Earlier, the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities (ICSC) warned of possible blackouts and power outages even by Election Day, which is scheduled for May 9.

“From NGCP’s (National Grid Corporation of the Philippines) official power outlook, the thin operating reserves will start on the 3rd week of April 2022 until the last week of May 2022. If the baseload coal plants continue to be on shutdown during this critical period, the forced outages could deplete the thin operating reserve and could trigger rotating blackouts,” ICSC Chief Data Scientist Jephraim Manansala said during a virtual briefing last week.

According to the NGCP, the 2022 forecast peak for demand of 12,387 MW for Luzon will take place in the last week of May, higher by 747 MW than the actual 2021 peak of 11,640 MW, which occurred on May 28, 2021.

As of 2020, the largest sources of power generation in the Philippines according to the Department of Energy (DOE) are as follows: coal (58.2 percent), natural gas (19.5 percent), geothermal (10.8 percent), hydroelectric (7.2 percent), and oil (2.5 percent). Solar, wind, and biomass sources account for a combined share of 3.7 percent.

For its part, the Philippine Electricity Market Corporation (PEMC) has called for harnessing renewable energy sources to decrease dependence on conventional power sources such as coal. The PEMC governs WESM.

“Institutionalizing effective strategies is imperative for us to fully harness the benefits of these RE resources, which include energy prices and supply stability to power up the Philippine economy in the new normal,” said PEMC President Leonido Pulido III.

Meanwhile, consumer advocacy group Laban Konsyumer, Inc. (LKI) urged the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) to probe recent unplanned plant outages.

“Instead of just conditioning the minds of the public that power rates will increase in the coming months, the ERC should also in­vestigate, reprimand and even pe­nalize these power producers for their unplanned outages, as these pressures the generation costs to increase, which are eventually charged to many hapless consum­ers,” said LKI President Victor Dimagiba, “The penalties must also be severe to encourage these power produc­ers to improve their services and to ensure their facilities are well-maintained to avoid any occurrence of unplanned outages.”

As for Quezon City Representative Alfred Vargas, vice chairperson of the House Committee on Energy, the DOE and the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) should ensure that the elections would not have to face power outages.

“The risk of unstable power supplies to our schools should be treated with great concern, especially as brownouts during election day have been historically viewed as badges of electoral fraud,” Vargas said in a statement yesterday.

Last March, seven power plants reportedly went out in the Luzon grid. Combined with power plants operating under their capacity, yellow alert status was declared. The NGCP said the plants that experienced unplanned outages were Unit 1 of the GN Power Dinginin plant, Unit 2 of South Luzon Thermal Energy, Units 2, 3, 4 of Southwest Luzon Power, Unit 2 of Calaca power plant, and Kalayaan power plant.

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Avatar for Arius Lauren Raposas

A public servant with a heart for actively supporting technology and futures thinking, responding accordingly to humanity's needs and goals, increasing participation of people in issues concerning them, upholding rights and freedoms, and striving further to achieve more despite our limited capacities. In everything, to God be all the glory.

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