DoE sees yellow alert in April, May

The sun sets over Parañaque City, March 7, 2024. — PHILIPPINE STAR/RUSSELL PALMA

By Sheldeen Joy Talavera, Reporter

THE Luzon grid may potentially experience yellow alerts in April and May as the operations of several hydroelectric power plants have been affected by the El Niño weather event, according to the Department of Energy (DoE).

This comes after the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) on Friday declared the official start of summer in the country.

The country also continues to experience the effects of the El Niño weather event, which has triggered drought and dry spells around the country.

“Based on the latest DoE simulations, with hydroelectric power plants running below capacity level due to the El Niño phenomenon, the Luzon grid might experience yellow alert in April and May,” it said in a statement.

Yellow alerts are declared when supply available to the grid falls below a designated safety margin.

The DoE, however, said the Visayas and Mindanao grids will have “normal reserve level” during the second quarter.

Irma C. Exconde, director for DoE’s Electric Power Industry Management Bureau, said that the possible yellow alert in April and May is based on the scenario that “there’ll be 70% reduction” or “zero” capacity from hydropower plants.

“The demand forecasts remain as we have forecasted this year under an El Niño scenario of 12% increase from 2023,” Ms. Exconde told BusinessWorld in a Viber message.

However, Ms. Exconde said that the actual peak demand last week is lower by 1,585 megawatts (MW) compared to the week earlier which is “not yet as high” as forecasted for an extreme El Niño.

There are 44 existing hydropower plants with an installed capacity of 2,548 MW connected to the grid, according to the data from the DoE as of end-November 2023.

In its latest advisory, PAGASA said that the El Niño across the tropical Pacific Ocean is showing “signs of weakening” and is expected to persist until May.

Energy Secretary Raphael P.M. Lotilla said the DoE continues to monitor the power situation especially as “scorching temperatures” are expected in the next three months.

“The summer period exerts significant pressure on electricity demand due to increased cooling needs, leading to peak demand shifts in consumption and infrastructure strain,” he said in a statement on Sunday.

“We are, therefore, closely coordinating with all the stakeholders to carefully manage and plan for the effects of the summer period and the on-going El Niño to ensure reliable and sustainable electricity supply.”

As of Sunday morning, the Luzon grid has an available generating capacity of 13,715 MW and a system peak demand of 8,821 MW, data from the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP) showed.

To avoid issuing alert notices, the DoE said that it is monitoring the grid by continuously updating the power outlook that “considers any changes particularly in the operations of power generating units.”

It added that it is coordinating with government agencies to facilitate timely approval of regulatory requirements for the completion of power facilities.

“The injection of power to the grid of generation facilities under testing and commissioning are allowed to provide additional capacity to the grid. The NGCP is likewise directed to expedite completion of this activity,” the DoE said.

The DoE also urged the public to continue practicing energy conservation “to minimize the cost of running oil-based power plants” during the period.

In 2023, the Philippines raised two red alerts and eight yellow alerts, according to the DoE, below the initial projection of 12 yellow alerts.