By Victor V. Saulon

PEAK POWER DEMAND in the Visayas and Mindanao may have moved towards the dry months — when Luzon usually marks its biggest usage each year — the Department of Energy said, as it prepares for the possibility that all three island groups will require more electricity at the same time.

Ang pinag-aaralan namin baka nag-move nga talaga ’yung peak, lumipat na ng summer (We’re studying whether their peak demand has moved towards summer),” Energy Assistant Secretary Redentor E. Delola said in a recent interview.

He said that Visayas and Mindanao usually see demand peak towards yearend, helping to spread electricity requirement throughout the year.

Luzon usually records its peak demand in the hot months.

“[Peak demand in 2020] for Luzon, it’s 12,286 megawatts (MW), Visayas it’s 2,419 MW, in Mindanao 2,278 MW,” Mr. Delola said about this year’s forecast.

He said system operator National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) had observed that the peak demand in the Visayas and Mindanao had moved

Yung actual peak na na-reach natin sa Visayas — 2,224 [MW in 2019] — nangyari ’yan early [last] year, around May (The actual peak that was reached in the Visayas at 2,224 MW happened early in 2019, around May),” he recalled.

“Mindanao naman, na-hit na natin at 2,013 MW early [last] year din (In Mindanao, we hit the peak at 2,013 MW also early last year). I think Mindanao [peaked] around June,” he added.

Mr. Delola said the department had computed Luzon’s peak demand last year by adding the 132 MW sourced from the distribution utility’s interruptible load program (ILP) and the 11,334 MW reached in May. ILP prompts private companies to run their own power generators to ease demand on the grid, thus helping avoid unplanned power interruptions.

He had said that power supply in Visayas and Mindanao in 2020 should not be a problem. He said there was an oversupply in Mindanao, while supply in the Visayas was at a comfortable level.

Mr. Delola said the department’s focus was on Luzon, where reserve power thins during the hot months. But he said a new power plant would come online early this year: the first unit of GNPower Dinginin Ltd. Co.’s supercritical coal-fired power plant.

GNPower Dinginin has two units, each with a capacity of 668 MW. The first unit was initially expected to start commercial operations towards end-2019. The DoE wants the first unit to be online before the dry months this year.

He said it helps that the 500-MW San Buenaventura Power Ltd. Co. (SBPL), the country’s first supercritical coal-fired power plant, now provides additional supply to the Luzon grid. SBPL started commercial operations on Sept. 26, 2019.

He said that if the privatization of the 600-MW Malaya thermal plant in Pililla, Rizal were to push through, it would be removed from the energy supply mix next year if the proponent or the winning bidder decides not to run it.

In November 2019, the second attempt of state-led Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp. to sell the Malaya plant failed as most of the pre-qualified bidders stayed on the sidelines. A lone bidder submitted an offer below the floor price.

The Malaya plant remains operational and is being dispatched as a “must-run” unit. A must-run plant is compelled to operate and provide power as deemed necessary to ensure the reliability of supply in the Luzon grid, especially in times of shortfall or as required for system security and voltage support.

Mr. Delola earlier said that his department was coordinating with the NGCP for Luzon to import more power from the Visayas. He said the department wanted imported power to reach 250 MW from just around 100 MW, which the Visayas is capable of providing as the transmission line can carry up to 400 MW.

He made the earlier statement before the department finalized the peak power demand figures for the Visayas. Mindanao is yet to be connected to the Luzon and Visayas grids. He said NGCP had advised that the interconnection target date at end-2020 remains feasible.