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Energy dep’t downplays El Niño’s possible impact

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THE DEPARTMENT of Energy (DoE) has dismissed fears of a possible adverse impact of a “weak” El Niño on the country’s power supply next quarter as it pointed to measures that are in place and the entry of new energy capacity this semester.

“Considering na magkakaroon tayo ng (we will have a) weak El Niño condition for the period of April to June, wala naman po’ng matinding (there will be no serious) impact ito sa (on) power supply natin. Ibig sabihin sa Luzon, sa Visayas at sa Mindanao grids, magiging normal po ang ating condition,” Energy Secretary William Felix B. Fuentebella said in a press conference at the DoE head office on Monday.


He said the weather phenomenon would be felt the most in the Luzon grid because of the big presence of hydroelectric power plants on the island — which contributes nearly three-fourths to national output — but reserves would be sufficient to cover demand.

The effect will be minimal in the Visayas because that area has few hydro plants, while Mindanao’s power oversupply should be able to cover El Niño’s impact.

“Even in [the May 13] election week, we still have enough supply of power,” said Assistant Secretary Redentor E. Delola.

He said the mild El Niño will result in a below-normal rainfall in March and April in Luzon and the Visayas, and near-normal rainfall in Mindanao.

In May, most parts of southern Luzon will still have below-normal rainfall, while rains will be “near-normal” for most parts of northern Luzon and Mindanao, he said. By June, Luzon will be closer to normal rainfall condition, except for the eastern sections. By then, Visayas and Mindanao will have normal rainfall.

Mr. Delola said the DoE used as basis for its “safer” summer power outlook the worst-case impact of El Niño in November and December 2015 and January 2016 during which the department noted a significant reduction in hydropower generation capacity.

He said that, based on Luzon’s forecast, peak demand would happen in May at 11,403 megawatts (MW). March-June is expected to see a 30% reduction in hydropower capacity to between 983 MW and 1,776 MW.

In the Visayas, power demand is expected to peak towards the end of the year at 2,299 MW, thus the weather aberration will have minimal impact. Hydropower’s share in the area’s capacity mix is minimal at 0.6%, Mr. Delola said.

In Mindanao, peak demand will come in towards yearend at 2,130 MW. Despite the possible significant effect of El Niño because of the 27.5% share of hydro in its capacity mix, the grid will remain stable due to the operation of large coal-fired plants.

Mr. Fuentebella said the DoE had in place mitigating measures ahead of El Niño. On the supply side, he said the DoE is making sure that power plants would have minimal forced outages, while managing maintenance schedules to strictly follow the grid operating program of the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines.

On the demand side, he said the department would continue to remind consumers on energy efficiency and conservation practice, while keeping on standby big power users’ interruptible load program. — Victor V. Saulon