Power blackouts loom, DOE admits

by Alvin Elchico, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 23 2012 03:01 PM | Updated as of Jun 24 2012 07:22 AM

Power rates may also go up in July

MANILA, Philippines - The power blackouts that have plagued Mindanao nearly became a reality for Luzon on Friday, with supply almost failing to keep pace with demand.

Power utility Meralco readied advisories of "one-hour rotating interruptions" Friday morning, after Luzon's electricity supply almost failed to meet the projected demand.

Fortunately, demand eased averting any power interruption in Luzon.

But while the situation improved, Luzon's power reserve remains thin and will remain at this state until the end of July, which means electricity outrages may occur if a major plant fails.

"Kapag nagkasabay-sabay, we will go on emergency shutdown," said Cynthia Alabanza, spokesperson of the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines.

According to the Department of Energy (DOE), power supply totalled 7,660 megawatts Friday against an actual demand of 7,300 to 7,500 megawatts.

It means only a reserve of less than 400 megawatts, way lower than the comfortable reserve capacity of 1,500 megawatts.

DOE Undersecretary Ina Asirit said several plants including Sual, Calaca, Malaya, Pagbilao and Tiwi have either be shut down or are not at full capacity.

"The threat of rorating brown-out will always be there. It's a cause for concern," she said.

Energy officials admit power rates may also go up in July, now that several oil-based plants are up and running on full capacity to augment the output of problematic plants.

"Siguradong di bababa. People should expect kasi that it has a cost," Asirit said.

Another factor that may further push electricity prices up in August will be the scheduled maintenance shutdown of  the Malampaya natural gas facility from July 13 to July 21.

The facility brings cheaper natural gas to three major power plants in Luzon, which will now be forced to use oil-based condensates in order to continue  producing electricity. - ANC