A power substation is seen in Malate, Manila, April 18, 2024. — PHILIPPINE STAR/EDD GUMBAN

THE ENERGY REGULATORY Commission (ERC) should raise the required reserve power capacity of the grid to prevent more outages in the future, an energy think tank said.

“Having an increased reserve power capacity in the grid can mitigate strains and potential power outages by ensuring a greater backup power supply in instances of unexpected shutdown of power plants,” Noel M. Baga, convenor of the Center for Energy Research and Policy, said in a message.

Sought for comment, ERC Chairperson Monalisa C. Dimalanta said that increasing reserve capacity “is part of the government’s campaign to increase investments in the generation sector.”

State of power plants in the Luzon grid“Increasing supply in the system also means we increase the capacities available for reserve,” Ms. Dimalanta said in a Viber message.

Reserves, commonly referred to as ancillary services, are services needed to “maintain balance in the power system to ensure normal frequency and voltage levels in response to demand changes, variability of renewable energy, and possible loss of a large generating unit,” according to the Department of Energy (DoE).

The country’s main grids have been under red and yellow alerts in the past week as some power plants went on forced outages.

Yellow alerts are issued when the supply available to the grid falls below a designated safety threshold. If the supply further deteriorates, a red alert is declared.

The Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao grids have required average regulating reserves of 557 megawatts (MW), 116 MW, and 103 MW, respectively, according to the bulletin dated April 24 from the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP).

The NGCP has implemented ancillary services procurement agreements from competitive biddings amounting to 257.78 MW in Luzon and 68.61 MW in Mindanao.

Last week, the DoE said more yellow alerts, and possibly red alerts, are expected until May due to higher-than-expected temperatures and rising power demand.

Mr. Baga said the ERC should enforce strict regulations on the maintenance and operation of power plants, “imposing penalties for breakdowns leading to power outages.”

“The ERC needs to enhance its regulatory oversight by requiring power plants to adhere to high performance standards and to replace outdated equipment, and penalizing power plants for breakdowns that cause unscheduled outages,” he said.

In 2023, the ERC imposed approximately P60 million worth of penalties against generation companies for breaching the allowable number of outage days.

Meanwhile, Leonardo A. Lanzona, Jr., economics professor at Ateneo de Manila University, said in an e-mail that the “fragility of the current power grid structure in terms of addressing socioeconomic shift has not been addressed.”

“All of these can be tied to the inability of the government to develop a response to extreme weather shifts due to climate change,” he said.

“This weakness belies all claims that the country has become richer, and its economic foundation is well grounded, wasting all opportunities for growth.”

In its background paper, the World Bank said that the Philippines was considered the fourth most-affected country by extreme weather events.

Mr. Lanzona said that the government needs to focus on strengthening the domestic economy first instead of focusing on foreign investments and “devising piecemeal solutions.” — Sheldeen Joy Talavera