The increasing demand for electricity has caused the Luzon grid to be placed on yellow alert for three consecutive days, despite additional supply injected into the grid from new power plants, an official of the Department of Energy (DOE) said.
“We hit our forecast on peak demand and even exceeded it by 300 megawatts [MW]. It happened the other day. Thus, we need capacity. I am not saying we lack the capacity now but we need it because demand is rising,” Energy Assistant Secretary Redentor Delola said when asked if additional capacity from Pagbilao Energy Corp.’s (PEC) unit 3 420-MW plant in Quezon is still not enough to prevent the issuance of a yellow alert notice.
A yellow alert is issued when reserves are not enough to cover the largest running generating unit at the time but does not necessarily lead to power outages.
Luzon was placed on yellow alert by the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP) on May 30, 31 and June 1 due to thin reserves because of high power demand, unexpected shutdown and limited generation of some power plants.
Based on an earlier DOE forecast, peak demand in Luzon was expected to hit 10,500 MW between the second and third weeks of May, with reserve expected at 1,500 MW during the period. On May 17 peak demand hit 10,688 MW.
The load growth for the past five years indicates the growing trend of peak power demands occurring in the month of May: 8,304 MW on May 8, 2013; 8,717 MW on May 21, 2014; 8,928 MW on May 21, 2015; 9,726 MW on May 3, 2016; and 10,054 MW on May 9, 2017.
Delola noted that the hike in demand came from outside the franchise area of the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco).
“Most probably, it was not within Meralco franchise area. Our growth is now outside the economic center. We are still looking for possible reasons. We will also look at individual submissions of distribution utilities,” he added.
Meralco serves over 6 million customers in Metro Manila, the provinces of Rizal, Cavite, Bulacan and parts of the provinces of Pampanga, Batangas, Laguna and Quezon. The franchise covers the core of the country’s industrial, commercial and population centers.
Energy Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi acknowledged that the country needs more capacity.
“With the growing economy spurring more and more commercial activities, the demand for power is also growing, so we would need power plants like the Pagbilao Unit 3 to sustain national development,” Cusi said.
Cusi lauded PEC for beefing up its two power plants in Pagbilao with a third facility that can produce additional 420 MW of electricity. “The plant will also go a long way in supplying the energy needs of the country beyond the Duterte administration, thereby supporting future businesses.”
He acknowledged that the Pagbilao Unit 3 power plant is coal fired, but he said it complies with environmental standards through the use of flue-gas desulfurizer technology. FGD removes sulfur dioxide from exhaust flue gases of fossil-fuel power plants.
The PEC built the Pagbilao Unit 3 power plant at a cost of P976 million. The plant is beside the Unit 1 and Unit 2 facility of the Pagbilao Power Station. Units 1, 2 and 3, which are all of the same technology, could generate a total of 735 MW.
Delola said another power plant is providing Luzon additional capacity. This is the second unit of SMC Consolidated Power Corp.’s power plant in Limay, Bataan.
“We have the supply. It’s just that demand keeps growing and there were plant outages, as well,” he added.
The same official said on March that there was nothing to worry about because Luzon has enough reserves for the summer months even as some plants are scheduled to go offline for that period.
“During the summer months, as projected, we will not have any problem as long as the new power plants will come in and run,” Delola had said.
In addition to the 570 MW of new capacity from Pagbilao 3 and Limay unit 2, Delola added the government could still tap the state-owned 650-MW Malaya thermal plant, which is considered a “must-run” unit. However, Malaya is one of the power plants that went on forced outage last week.
Image credits: Nonie Reyes