By Victor V. Saulon

The NATIONAL GRID Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) expects May 13’s available power generating capacity in Luzon to be at 11,740 megawatts (MW) as against a peak system demand of 9,047 MW, giving the grid operator a margin of 2,693 MW sufficiently covering the midterm elections.

In the Visayas, it expects available capacity on Monday to reach 2,295 MW as against peak demand of 1,955 MW, or an operating margin of 340 MW.

Available capacity in Mindanao is expected at 2,240 MW versus peak demand of 1,635 MW or a margin of 605 MW.

The figures, supplied by NGCP on request, are expected to sufficiently tide the country during the elections.

“Monday is a holiday so demand is low,” Cynthia P. Alabanza, NGCP spokesperson, said in an interview on Friday when asked for a general assessment on power supply and demand for Monday.

The Department of Energy (DoE) said the system requires a regulating reserve equivalent to four percent of peak demand, or 361.88 MW on Monday, giving Luzon enough buffer to cover even the contingency and dispatchable reserves that are equivalent to the two identical units of the power plant in Sual, Pangasinan, each with a capacity of 647 MW.

NGCP said the expected power supply and demand projection was based on available data as of 2 p.m. on Friday, May 10.

As of 1 p.m. on Sunday, NGCP said: “NGCP’s transmission lines and facilities are under normal operations.”

Hindi naman siya critical (It’s not really critical),” Department of Energy (DoE) Undersecretary William Felix B. Fuentebella said in an interview on Friday when asked on concerns about a possible spike in power demand during vote count after Monday’s elections.

He said the situation on May 14 could be on the “borderline” of a yellow alert, a notice issued by NGCP when there is no more dispatchable reserve and the system is already tapping into its contingency reserve.

Mas okay ‘yung May 15. May 16, May 17 okay din (May 15 is better. May 16, May 17 will also be okay),” he said, assuring that the power system has sufficient supply for election week.

His assurance comes as Luzon on Friday was once again on yellow alert from 1-3 p.m. as peak power demand hit 10,524 MW against available capacity of 11,433 MW, leaving an operating margin of just 909 MW.

A major cause of the supply deficiency was the de-rating of a number of hydroelectric power plants, which usually happens amid a prolonged lack of rainfall especially during the dry months.

A total of 885 MW was lost as a result of the reduced capacity of the de-rated plants.

Separately, the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) released results of a study that showed up to 72% of the power plants in Luzon to be 16 years old or older, possibly adding to the energy reserve deficiency experienced in the country’s biggest power grid in March and April this year.

“Are the outages related to the ages of the plants in Luzon?” ERC Spokesperson Floresinda B. Digal asked, adding that a review of the information submitted to the commission appears to support a correlation between the age of the plants and the unscheduled shutdowns.

She said the “revealing” outcome of the ERC review showed that plants that are at least 16 years old contributed to 62% of the power outages in the March 5-April 25 period.

At the same time, Ms. Digal also said that plants that are less a year old and no older than five years accounted for a big number of outages. She said the ERC was still studying the reasons given by the power plant owners.

Sought for comment, Ranulfo M. Ocampo, president of the Philippine Electric Owners Association, said the thinning reserves could be a result mainly of rising power demand.

“The demand is increasing. Our population is increasing because of economic progress; naturally the demand for power will also increase,” he said in an interview on Friday.

“The rehabilitation of power plants can only do so much.”