The effects of El Niño continued to bear down on the country on Wednesday as top power distributor Manila Electric Co. said it was forced to implement manual load dropping or rotating brownouts starting at 1 p.m. yesterday due to insufficient power generation capacity amid soaring temperatures.
Meralco implemented the MLD after power grid operator National Grid Corporation of the Philippines issued a red alert notice in the Luzon grid.
The Luzon grid had been under a yellow alert for six days due to the unplanned and forced outage of power plants amid increased demand.
Meralco announced that affected areas are portions of Malolos City, Bustos, Plaridel, and Pulilan in Bulacan; Malabon, Navotas, Caloocan City, and Valenzuela in Metro Manila; Alfonso, Mendez-Nuñez, Tagaytay City, General Emilio Aguinaldo, Amadeo, Imus, Bacoor, Noveleta, Kawit, and General Trias in Cavite;
The Quezon City districts of Batasan, Fairview, Bago Bantay, Novaliches, San Jose, San Francisco del Monte, Pugad Lawin, and Kaunlaran; Las Piñas City; and Biñan, Bay, Sta. Cruz, Sta. Rosa, Calamba, Liliw, Nagcarlan, Pila, San Pedro, and Cabuyao in Laguna.
“Your power supply may have been affected by our MLD or rotational brownout due to insufficient operating reserve that may last for an hour,” Meralco said in its Twitter advisory to consumers.
However, after failing to stop a weeks-long water shortage in Metro Manila, the government said Wednesday that it was confident it could address any impending electricity crisis in Luzon.
In a Palace press briefing, Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said the Energy Department remains on top of the situation even after the NGCP placed the Luzon grid under red alert on Wednesday due to “insufficient operating reserves.”
“I’m sure the Energy department will have responses to whatever crisis we will have,” Panelo told Palace reporters.
A red alert, the highest warning, warns the public of the likelihood of power outages in the grid.
The NGCP, which operates the country’s transmission facilities, said the alert status was raised because of thinning power supply and degradation of some generators, putting them at below maximum capacity.
The red alert status, which was first raised this year, was enforced at 11 a.m., 2 p.m., and 4 p.m. on Wednesday. The yellow alert status was also raised at 10 a.m., 12 noon to 1 p.m., followed by 5 p.m., and 7 to 9 p.m.
The NGCP then said that as 4:46 p.m., the red alert had been lifted for the Luzon grid.
According to the Department of Energy, the enforced red and yellow alerts were caused by “the high projected system demand and the outage and degradation of generators that resulted in the thinning of reserves.”
The DOE also said that corporations and commercial establishments participating in the Interruptible Load Program can activate their self-generating facilities.
Despite the thinning supply reserves, the DOE said that it does not expect any power interruptions because ILP participants will be activating their generator sets.
Meanwhile, ahead of the May elections, Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi assured the public the government will provide uninterruptible energy supply to prevent outages during the May 13 polls.
Currently, the expected peak demand in Luzon is at 10,140 megawatts (MW), while available capacity it as 10,625 MW, with -138 available reserves as of this writing.
However, the Luzon grid remained under yellow alert from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday.
NGCP warned early Wednesday that MLD may be implemented to maintain the integrity of the power system, specifically parts of Bataan, parts of Banguio City and Benguet, parts of Isabela, San Fernando City, Pampanga, parts of Quezon, parts of Camarines Sur, Albay, parts of Ilocos Sur, Cabanatuan City, Cagayan, Camarines Norte, Tarlac, parts of Pangasinan, parts of Camarines Sur, and parts of Metro Manila at various hours of the day.
NGCP said the schedule may be canceled if system conditions improve, such as if actual demand falls below projections.
“NGCP encourages everyone to exercise prudence in using electricity,” the company said.
A consumer group, Laban Konsyumer Inc., called on the ERC and DOE to show greater urgency in dealing with a power shortage.
In another development, the weather bureau said Wednesday the public should brace for extreme hot weather next month.
“By May, we will continue to experience hotter days,” Climate Monitoring chief Analiza Solis said, adding “around 40 degrees Celsius would be felt instantaneously, possibly in Northern Luzon and [even] in northern Cagayan.”
According to Solis, Mindanao’s North Cotabato and General Santos City have been identified as “heat danger zones” that could pose health risks.
Also included in the heat danger zones are Luzon’s Tuguegarao City, Dagupan City in Pangasinan, Nueva Ecija, Isabela, Occidental Mindoro, Oriental Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan.
Heat is more concentrated in these areas due to thinner tree cover, Solis said.
Pagasa said highest heat index of 51.7 degrees Celsius was recorded in Dagupan City on Tuesday.
Heat index is the temperature affecting the human body amid relative humidity and air temperature and is normally higher than actual air temperature.
The weather bureau recorded 40.4 degrees Celsius heat index in Metro Manila this month.
Meanwhile, Maynilad, the private water concessionaire for Metro Manila’s west zone, said it has been cutting service to some areas during off-peak hours to allow its reservoir to replenish its reserves.
Maynilad Corporate Communications head Jennifer Rufo said the Bagbag Reservoir has slipped below its normal level of 68 to 70 meters in the past days due to a spike in demand prompted by the sweltering summer heat.
The water pressure, she said, is automatically lowered in elevated areas whenever the reservoir’s level hits 65 meters and below.
This results in a supply interruption in parts of Quezon City, Caloocan and Valenzuela from 12 a.m. to 4 a.m., as well as 10 percent of Maynilad’s customer base during office hours, Rufo told radio dzMM.
The schedule of the service interruptions and affected areas is regularly announced on Maynilad’s Facebook page, she said.
She added that this would not last “for a long time” since its new water treatment plant which draws water from Laguna Lake would augment its supply of water.