Capacity building and additional power supply were highlighted as solutions for the recent spate of red and yellow alerts in the Luzon grid which triggered power outages in key areas, including Metro Manila. This was among the main topics tackled during the Joint Congressional Power Commission (JCPC) hearing held last May 2, led by Chairs Senator Sherwin Gatchalian and Congressman Lord Allan Velasco.
The hearing was called to discuss the possibility of collusion among generation companies with power plants that simultaneously went on outage since March 2019. At its peak, Luzon grid experienced a shortfall of more or less 1500MW of capacity due to sudden outage of 16 major power plants.
The National Grid Corporation of the Philippines put Luzon grid on a series of eight (8) red alerts in April alone- the most recorded since 2015, specifically on April 10-12, 15, 23-25 and 29. Thirteen (13) yellow alerts were raised in the first half of 2019 alone, particularly on March 5-8, April 1-5, 8, 26-27 and 30. This prompted Manual Load Dropping or rotational brownouts which affected millions of customers.
Speaking to an audience composed of power industry players, Congressman Velasco noted that among the solutions to address the shortfall that should be looked into is the influx of new capacity. “Let’s build capacity, damihan natin generation companies (add more generation companies).”
Present in the panel was Department of Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi who said, “DOE is trying to build capacity and we are technology neutral.” Cusi mentioned that Memoranda of Agreement with investors from Japan and China for merchant plants are already underway, as well as an LNG terminal, which is set for groundbreaking.
Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) Commissioner Catherine Maceda for their part, concurred with the need for additional supply, citing the thin reserves in the Luzon grid, “Our intention is to provide more power, that is why we are working full time to address the issue of outages and pending power supply agreements. We need to address issue of supply by speeding up decisions on PSA’s.”
Senator Gatchalian was keen to secure an assurance from the DOE, ERC and power generators that there will be no brownouts come election day on May 13, and the days following, which are likewise critical for canvassing and tallying.
DOE assured that brownouts during election period is unlikely, provided that power plants do not conk out. Should sudden and simultaneous outages happen again however, DOE mentioned that there are contingency measures in place, including the Interruptible Load Program and provision of generator sets to key election areas.
Senator Gatchalian also criticized the lack of penalties for the power plants that go on unplanned shutdown, “We’ve never punished entities that go on unplanned outages before, (now let’s) make them accountable for their performance.”
ERC committed that a report on the collusion investigation, with recommendations, will be submitted to the Commission after 30 days.