Power plants told to prepare for summer demand

From a report by Alvin Elchico, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 05 2014 11:15 PM | Updated as of Feb 06 2014 07:02 PM

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Energy (DOE) is getting ready for a tightness in electricity supply this summer.

Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla said the grid is likely going to be on "yellow alert," which means if a major power plant bogs down, there will be rotating power interruptions because the reserve is thin.

Based on DOE's data, the projected demand for Luzon this summer will reach nearly 10,300 megawatts, while supply is projected at 10,500 megawatts.

“Kapag may plantang biglang bumagsak ay talagang hindi natin inaasahan ‘yan. Parang kotse ‘yan, tumatakbo, hindi natin alam kung kalian titirik,” said Petilla.

That is why the government has alerted power plants to make sure their facilities are in tip-top shape during the peak demand months to prevent blackouts.

To boost supply in Luzon, the government has decided to run in April the controversial Malaya thermal plant, the same plant that some say should have been ran to temper spiking electricity prices in November and December last year.

Even if it’s expensive since it runs on diesel, the DOE said it will operate for 70 straight days to prevent tightness in electricity supply that may lead to rotating power interruptions this summer.

Malaya remains on shutdown after government deemed it unreasonable to run, with its costs exceeding prices in the spot market.

Malaya's operator Salcon said it now has enough fuel to run and will be ready for dispatch once its owner, the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management (PSALM) gives the go signal to start producing power.

“Maximize the use of Malaya but not to the extent that we will exhaust it, baka mamayang wala ka ng magamit kung kailan mo talaga kailangan,” said Petilla.

But while Malaya is ready to augment supply with its 70-day run in summer, it also warns that consumers may have to pay more for expensive power.

“Maghanda na talaga kasi mas mahal na ‘yung magiging operating cost ng Malaya, so malaki ‘yung sisingilin ng Meralco,” said Malaya plant operation manager Virgilio Cruz.

Meanwhile, if Luzon will have thin reserves this summer, Visayas and Mindanao will have shortages during peak hours, translating into rotating power interruptions for residents of these areas.