Probe on unexpected Luzon power outage called

Probe on unexpected Luzon power outage called

MANDALUYONG CITY, Philippines – Residential and industrial blocks gleam through the night on this part of the city, 10 March 2018 file. Senate Committee on Energy chair Senator Win Gatchalian will spearhead a probe centering on the Department of Energy’s inaccurate electricity forecast throughout the summer season, as well as its contingency measures in case of unexpected power interruptions. Photo by Mark Cayabyab/OS WIN GATCHALIAN

Senator Win Gatchalian is calling for an investigation into the unexpected brownouts that hit several towns and cities in Luzon, especially after the Department of Energy (DOE) has given its assurance that there is ample supply of electricity reserve throughout the dry season.

Gatchalian, chair of the Senate Committee on Energy, made the call amid the series of yellow and red alert warnings issued by the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) for the Luzon grid.

“The brownouts felt by our constituents in Luzon these past few days is totally unacceptable. The Department of Energy assured us even before the start of summer that there will be enough power supply in the country. If there’s enough power supply, then how come that there are towns and provinces in Luzon that are experiencing rotational brownouts,” the lawmaker pointed out.

“Definitely, heads must roll this time. We owe it to the power consumers to give them accurate information on the power situation in the country. Mukhang na-overestimate ng DOE ang available capacity ng kuryente natin,” he added.

Citing a report from the NGCP, Gatchalian said at least seven provinces along with 40 cities and towns have so far been affected by the rotating brownouts due to the forced and unplanned outages of five generators in Luzon.

Gatchalian said part of the investigation to be conducted by the Senate Committee on Energy will center on DOE’s inaccurate electricity forecast throughout the summer season, as well as the department’s contingency measures in case of unexpected power interruptions.

The lawmaker pointed out that the DOE’s forecast does not include unplanned outages. He added that the forecast also includes the committed capacities in their available capacity, thus making the projection less realistic. 

Comparing DOE forecast with the NGCP projections, Gatchalian said the projected available capacity of DOE is way above the level of the projected capacity of the NGCP.

To illustrate his point, Gatchalian pointed out that on April 11, 2019, the DOE forecasted that there were at least 1,085 megawatts (MW) gross reserve, indicating that there was enough supply of electricity for Luzon. He said this was in contrast with the forecast of the NGCP, which showed that the gross reserve for April 11 was only 236 MW, which, according to the lawmaker, was thin and below the required regulating reserve.

Moreover, on April 12, 2019, Gatchalian said DOE made another inaccurate forecast stating that there was still 1,006 MW gross reserve that was enough to power the Luzon grid. However, the NGCP sounded alarm bells and issued a red alert status after it forecasted a gross reserve of only 21 MW for the same day, lower and way below the sum of the required regulating reserve.

The NGCP further reported that at least five generators – SCPC, Sual, SLPGC, Pagbilao, and SLTEC – remain in either forced or unplanned outages, resulting in the loss of 1,502 MW of electricity.

“Our power consumers deserve nothing but accurate information. Ang DOE ang pangunahing ahensya na dapat nagbibigay ng wasto at sapat na inpormasyon upang makapaghanda an gating mga kababayan. Kaso mukhang na fake news tayo ng DOE sa pagkakataon na ito,” he said.

Meanwhile, Gatchalian reiterated his call to DOE to remain vigilant for possible collusion due to thin electricity reserves in the midst of high demand.