THE DEPARTMENT of Energy (DoE) is scheduled to issue in the third quarter a circular covering the operation of smart grids in the Philippines as distribution utilities embark on projects to upgrade power systems in line with advances in the technology.

“Many have already adopted and implemented some level of smart grid initiatives in their operations, and the DoE is spearheading the formulation of a policy framework and roadmap for the smart grid implementation,” said Energy Assistant Secretary Redentor E. Delola during the The Future Energy Show at the Mall of Asia’s SMX Convention Center in Pasay City.

“As part of its implementation, we have already undertaken steps, such as the identification of the plans, projects and programs for the generation, transmission, distribution and load sector necessary for the establishment of the national smart grid framework; the creation of smart grid technical working group; the conduct of forums and workshops; and collaborating with other government agencies, stakeholders, private companies, and the academe through information sharing and education campaigns,” he added.

Mr. Delola was delivering a message for DoE Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi who was scheduled to give the conference’s keynote speech. He told reporters that a circular on smart grids is set to be released in the third quarter.

“It’s a roadmap pero in form of a circular ang ilalabas (It’s a roadmap but will be released in the form of a circular),” he said.

Mr. Delola said a smart grid includes the latest advancement in information, communication and technology. It allows households to receive real-time information on their power consumption. The same information is also available to distribution utilities.

He said when the country achieves full smart grid coverage, the level of competition will also be at full blast, that is, households will be able to directly buy electricity from retail suppliers.

With smart grids, households will also have access to information on when electricity demand is at its lowest, allowing them to schedule energy-consuming activities during off-peak hours when power costs are lowest.

Mr. Delola said smart grids would allow the system’s load profile to flatten as opposed to its current behavior, which is “too peaky.” Power demand peaks during times of the day when electricity usage is at its highest, resulting in thinning reserves and possible power outages.

He said the proposed circular will include specific capital expenditure projects that match the level of development of a distribution utility. The circular will enumerate the projects that an electric cooperative with minimal technology investments need to do, he said.

“The ERC (Energy Regulatory Commission) will just look into that roadmap, pagka-identified ka ng (when you are identified by the) Department of Energy at level 1, you can apply for these projects,” Mr. Delola said, adding that the regulator will have a guide on the projects that it needs to approve.

“We’re looking at five levels,” he said, with the country’s largest power distribution utility Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) at level 4. “Level 5 is really integrating everything — the DERs (distributed energy resources), lahat nung mga (all the) current developments.”

“When you talk about Meralco or Aboitiz, medyo (they’re a bit) advanced,” he said. “When you look at the coops malayo pa (they’re still far behind).” The Aboitiz group leads the biggest power distribution utilities in the Visayas and Mindanao.

In his speech, Mr. Delola said the forum is “very relevant and timely” as the DoE is working on how to ensure energy supply security and greater access to energy through the utilization of innovative technologies that will provide great help to fuel the economy in a sustainable manner.

“There are several factors that drive us to improve our current power system and venture towards smart grid. First, to have a more reliable, more efficient, secure and flexible grid, there is a need to integrate new and emerging technologies in our system. Second, the promotion of renewable energy as our policies, like net metering, renewable portfolio standards, green energy option, and a provision of a renewable energy market, make our system more complex,” he said.

“Third, the government is also promoting the use of electric vehicles, where over two million were sold in 2018 and its number is expected to increase significantly in the future. Lastly, the rapid development of ICT. All of these call for the urgent shift to smart grid, which is expected to provide a safe environment, reliable sources, flexible, sustainable and more efficient system, and competitiveness towards consumer empowerment.” he said. — Victor V. Saulon