SENATOR Sherwin T. Gatchalian, who chairs the Senate Committee on Energy, said the Energy department’s reassurances of sufficient power supply during the 2022 election season may not hold up in the event of an unplanned outage at a major power plant.

“The DoE clarified through a virtual press conference last Aug. 17, 2021 that the country will have sufficient electric power supply during the election week as the initial outlook shows sufficient supply, and as such no yellow alerts and power interruptions. However, the outlook does not take into consideration forced and unplanned outages and the declining Malampaya supply,” he said in a resolution filed last week. 

Mr. Gatchalian’s Senate Resolution 867 seeks to look into the preparations of the Department of Energy (DoE) and energy industry to ensure a continuous supply of power during the May elections.

In the resolution, he pointed out that the dry seasons of 2019 and 2021 were accompanied by power interruptions caused by unplanned outages and derating of power plants. He added that brownouts — the reduction of power supply to various service areas on a rotating basis — took place earlier this year despite earlier pronouncements from the DoE that it was “optimistic that the country will not encounter major challenges or any alerts that may result in insufficiency of supply.”

“We must ensure the credibility and transparency in the conduct of elections as well as the delivery of fast and accurate results reflective of the genuine will of the people,” Mr. Gatchalian said separately in a statement over the weekend.

On Aug. 17, Energy Undersecretary and Spokesperson Felix William B. Fuentebella said he expects a “thinning of reserves” between May and June next year due to higher demand and low water levels at hydro power plants, but called yellow alerts unlikely for the Luzon grid.

Citing the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines’ (NGCP) base case scenario for 2022, Mr. Fuentebella said that available power is expected to stay above the minimum contingency and regulating requirements.

The system operator issues a yellow alert when power reserves fall below ideal levels. When the supply-demand balance worsens, it is downgraded to a red alert. 

NGCP Head of Systems and Standards Division and Technical Services Department Ermelindo R. Bugaoisan, Jr. has said that this scenario assumes “no maintenance” for power plants during the dry season. 

Meanwhile, the DoE estimates indicate the remaining reserves of the offshore Malampaya gas field will be depleted by the first quarter of 2027. — Angelica Y. Yang