Election day brownouts loom, group warns

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(FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 30)— An energy policy group keeps its earlier projection, warning of rotating brownouts across the Luzon grid during the crucial election period.

In February, the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities (ICSC) released a report showing a "very tight" power supply outlook for the second quarter, including the May 9 polls and canvassing of votes. It predicted "red alert status, high electricity costs, and rotating blackouts" in Luzon.

In a webinar on Wednesday, ICSC chief data scientist Jephraim Manansala said the power outlook has not improved over the past two months.

"Are we still expecting power outages? And the answer is yes," Manansala said.

"Because multiple power plants showed recurring forced outages, and some of them are still on shutdown up to this day. Thus, the full compliance to the GMOP (Grid Operating and Maintenance Program) looks far-fetched," he added.

The engineer explained: "What is available on the grid today is only enough to suffice for the April 2022 demand, and to reach the 8,100 MW required capacity by May 2022, we need to commission the newly constructed GN Power Dinginin Plant Unit 2."

This new coal-fired power plant in Bataan is touted to augment energy supply. However, the ICSC is also not counting on it to prevent the brownouts, pointing out that the recently commissioned Unit 1 has repeatedly went on unplanned outages.

"New plants and yet ang daming outages ng Unit 1 (Unit 1 has had many outages)," said ICSC energy transition advisor Engr. Alberto Dalusung III.

"We put a question mark on that," he said.

The ICSC said the Department of Energy should ensure power plants won't exceed the total allowable outage days, suggesting tougher penalties for those that fail to comply.

Early this year, the Department of Energy assured enough power supply during the elections, without ruling out the possibility of red alerts two weeks after the polls due to forced outages. Energy Undersecretary Felix William Fuentebella said counting centers will have supply backups just like what's being done for vaccination sites.

Energy Regulatory Commission Chair Agnes Devanadera also told CNN Philippines' New Day that the country has enough power supply so far.

"Power plants close down to undertake maintenance of their plants, just like cars, vehicles. We bring them for maintenance or [oil change]," she said, adding that power plants that go on unscheduled outages will definitely be penalized.

In mid-March, the department issued an advisory urging all government agencies to implement energy efficiency and conservation measures to ensure ample electricity during the local and national elections.

The ICSC is calling on the public to also take part in cutting the demand by reducing consumption during peak hours or between 10:00 am to 2:00 p.m.

"Demand-side management and solar rooftops are the quickest to implement," Dalusung said. "'Yun 'yung (These are the) realistic options."