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July 14, 2016

Big electricity users may have to run backup generators on May 9 - LPG-MA

MANILA - Big consumers of electricity -- malls, office and residential towers and factories -- may have to power up their backup generators on May 9 to avert possible brownouts when voters troop to the polls, the party-list group Liquefied Petroleum Gas Marketers’ Association (LPG-MA) said Sunday.
 
LPG-MA Rep. Arnel Ty, a member of the House energy committee, said the Department of Energy (DOE) “may have to ask large users to self-generate their electricity needs and stay off the grid on election day just to guarantee uninterrupted power supply in voting precincts throughout Luzon.”
 
“It seems that the extreme heat is the unpredictable factor in the power supply-demand equation. As the heat index rises, there’s really no telling how great the demand will be for cooling this summer,” Ty said.
 
For several days this April, Luzon was on the verge of brownouts, as peak demand surged to record highs at around 9,700 megawatts (MWs), just when a number of power plants were on maintenance shutdown or under repair.
 
While May 9 is a public holiday, demand for electricity is expected to pick up as more people either stay either at home or in malls after they cast their vote.
 
“Based on the reserve generator sets registered with the Energy Regulatory Commission, the private sector has more than 3,000 MWs of standby self-generating capacity,” Ty said.
 
The DOE adopted the Interruptible Load Program (ILP) to help address Luzon’s power deficit in the summer of 2015, when there was a risk of brownouts happening one hour per day every week over 16 weeks from March to July due to a 700-MW supply shortfall.
 
Under the ILP, the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) or the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP) may ask participating establishments to disconnect from the grid and run their emergency generators once power supply falls short of demand.
 
The ILP helps provide other consumers -- those without any self-generating capacity -- adequate electricity despite supply deficiencies.
 
Meanwhile, Ty pushed for the ILP’s formation as a permanent secondary reserve mechanism to provide the country an emergency supply of electricity during disasters, such as when a number of power plants or transmission lines are damaged by a strong earthquake.
 
Following deadly tremors in Japan, Ecuador and Vanuatu, the Philippines has been heightening its readiness for the “Big One” -- a 7.2-magnitude earthquake expected in Metro Manila because of the Marikina Valley Fault System.
 
According to the Risk Index of the World Disasters Report, the Philippines ranks third out of 173 countries in terms of vulnerability to natural calamities -- from earthquakes and tropical storms to flashfloods and landslides.
 
“Although the ILP is voluntary in nature, Congress and the DOE may still find ways to establish the program as a stable emergency reserve mechanism, possibly with extra financial incentives to participants,” Ty said.
 
The country’s electricity grids are designed so that, under normal conditions, they are supposed to have primary operating reserves that are always at least equal to the capacity of the largest power plant, plus a fraction of peak demand.
 
Operating reserves refer to additional capacities instantly available to the grid to meet demand in case a power plant unexpectedly conks out, or there is a sudden supply disruption.
 
As of 6:00am Sunday, April 24, the Luzon grid’s capacity stood at 10,280 MW versus peak demand of 7,670 MW and an operating reserve of 2,610 MW, according to the NGCP.
 
The Visayas grid’s capacity was at 2,157 MW against peak demand of 1,709 MW and an operating reserve of 448 MW.
 
The Mindanao grid had a negative 9 MW operating reserve with capacity at 1,187 MW versus peak demand of 1,196 MW.
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