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More areas reel from El Niño

Three more areas were placed under a state of calamity due to the El Niño weather phenomenon— bringing the total across the country to 21—as parts of Metro Manila came to grips with three-hour rotating power outages due to insufficient power generating capacity in the Luzon grid.

On Thursday, Albay province was placed under a state of calamity, following Camarines Sur, also in the Bicol region. The province reported agricultural damage from the dry spell at more than 170 million, affecting more than 5,000 farmers.

Cebu City and the town of T’Boli in South Cotabato also declared states of calamity, passing council resolutions to enable their local governments to tap their calamity funds.

They joined at least 18 other areas nationwide under similar states as the economic damage wrought by El Niño has passed P2.7 billion, according to estimates of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.

Meanwhile, the Luzon power grid was placed on red alert status for 13 hours on Friday, which resulted in three-hour rotating brownouts in the franchise area of Manila Electric Co., affecting over 1.38 million customers.

Other customers in the Luzon grid were also affected after grid operator National Grid Corporation of the Philippines announced a red alert or insufficient power generating capacity for 13 hours from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday.

NGCP announced that available capacity went down to 10,220 megawatts versus peak demand 10,334 MW at 9 a.m. after more power plants went offline. As of 1 p.m., system demand soared to 10,623 MW versus 10,206 MW or a deficit of 417 MW.

The brownout was caused by the recent unplanned outage of the San Miguel Consolidated Power Corp. (SCPC) Unit 2 (150MW) at around 4:28 p.m. on Thursday.

Other plants that are also offline are the Sual Unit I of Team Energy and San Miguel (647MW); Southwest Luzon Power Generation Corp. (SLPGC) Unit 2 of DMCI (150 MW); Pagbilao Unit 3 of Team Energy and Aboitiz Power (420MW); and South Luzon Thermal Energy Corp. (SLTEC) Unit 1 of Ayala (135MW) while DMCI’s Calaca Unit 2 (100 MW) is operating below capacity.

Around 827 MW of power capacity is also offline from previously approved outages due to scheduled maintenance.

“Your power supply may have been affected by our Manual Load Dropping or rotational brownout due to insufficient operating reserve that may last for three hours,” Meralco said in its advisory.

Meralco tapped 112 participants of its interruptible load program to lighten the load from the grid and run their respective generating sets to free up 243 MW of power capacity.

Affected areas in the franchise area of Meralco are portions of Plaridel, Malolos City, San Rafael, San Ildefonso, Pandi, Norzagaray, Doña Remedios Trinidad, Angat, Paombong, Hagonoy, Calumpit, Meycauayan, Santa Maria, Marilao, Bocaue, Pulilan, Baliuag, San Jose Del Monte City, Balagtas in Bulacan.

Also affected were Manila City, Quezon City, Caloocan City, Parañaque City, Pasay CIty, San Juan, Las Piñas, Valenzuela, Malabon, Navotas, Pasig City, Taguig City, Muntinlupa, Mandaluyong City, Marikina, Makati City.

In Cavite, customers in Imus, General Trias, Dasmariñas City, Trece Martirez City, Tagaytay City, Silang, Naic, Indang, Amadeo, Bacoor, Noveleta, Kawit, Cavite City, Tanza, Rosario, General Mariano Alvarez, Carmona were also affected.

Cabuyao, Liliw, Magdalena, Majayjay, Nagcarlan, Rizal, San Pablo City, Bay, Calamba, Calauan, Los Baños, Pila, Sta. Cruz, Victoria, Biñan, Sta. Rosa, San Pedro and Alaminos, all in Laguna, were also affected.

Meralco customers in Lucena City, Tayabas, Pagbilao, Candelaria, Dolores, San Antonio, Tiaong Batangas City, Talisay, San Pascual, Sto. Tomas, Taytay, Cainta, San Mateo and Apalit, San Simon were also affected.

Customers of distribution utilities and electric cooperatives in parts of Ilocos Sur, La Union, Quezon, Tarlac, Nueva Ecija, Angeles City, Batangas, Camarines Sur, Camarines Norte, Ifugao, Albay, Pangasinan, Sorsogon, Quirino, Laguna and Bataan were also hit by rotating brownouts.

The Luzon grid was placed on yellow alert from Monday to Friday last week due to lower reserves due to high demand fueled by soaring temperatures amid the shutdown of several power plants.

The grid continued to be on yellow alert on Monday but power supply remained stable on Tuesday due to low demand.

On Wednesday, however, Meralco implemented manual load dropping (MLD) or rotating brownouts due to insufficient power generation capacity amid soaring temperatures and the continued shutdown of power plants.

Meralco customers also experience rotating brownouts Thursday night after the Limay plant also went on forced outage.

Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi said the Department of Energy looking into the red alert issuances and put into action remedial measures that would protect consumers from power outages.

Cusi said the department would look into the reasons for the unplanned outages and the spikes in electricity spot market prices, and review replacement power and outage allowance provisions in existing power supply agreements between generation companies and power distributors to ensure their proper implementation.

Aside from short-term solutions, the department is also looking at long-term institutional solutions, Cusi said.

The NGCP said a maximum 6 percent of the load in Luzon experienced a two- to three-hour power interruption Friday, but the system would seen an improvement Saturday and Sunday due to low demand on weekends.

Re-electionist Senator Nancy Binay said instead of assigning blame for the current energy situation, all the involved agencies needed to get to the bottom of the issue to address it properly.

She said power outages and communications breakdowns during the elections in May should be prevented at all costs.

“Electricity and the internet play a vital role during the national elections. This early, the Comelec should come up with contingency plans just in case there would be power and internet outages,” she said.

“Rotating brownouts is a hot issue for everyone. We don’t want to darken the outlook of the May 2019 elections, so all the agencies of government should help prevent power outages to ensure a credible election,” she said in a mix of English and Filipino.

The DOE, however, said the power supply projections look good for the May 13 automated elections despite the recent red alerts.

READ: Food price spiral feared amid prolonged dry spell

READ: ‘Rotational brownouts’ amid hot summer days

Topics: El Niño weather phenomenon , National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council , Manila Electric Co.
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