QUEZON CITY, 8 February 2022 – A climate and energy policy group predicts an electricity shortfall across the Luzon grid this summer, especially during the weeks leading up to and immediately after the coming elections this May, in a new report released today.

The report by the Institute of Climate and Sustainable Cities (ICSC), entitled “Luzon Power Outlook: Determining the Adequacy of Power Supply for April to June 2022”, challenges projections of the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) that the Philippines will have sufficient power supply in the second quarter of 2022.

“Unreliable electricity supply would undermine the credibility of the elections. We need our electrical power system to provide reliable supply especially during election day and while transmitting data; otherwise our political power system might fail if the results are not accepted by our people,” said Atty. Pedro Maniego Jr., ICSC senior policy advisor.

ICSC asserts that the NGCP’s projection of thinning operating reserves in the two-week period before (April 18-May 1) and after (May 16-29) this year’s elections is already the most optimistic scenario, and is far from ideal because this projection does not account for the potential unplanned outages of coal power plants. 

Given historical trends and current power reserve issues, ICSC anticipates a 1,335 megawatt (MW) deficit in the country’s electricity supply during peak demand, leading to a red alert status and possible blackouts over the Luzon grid in the second quarter of 2022. This is supported by the Department of Energy (DOE), who foresees red and yellow alerts raised across the Luzon grid after the elections on May 9.

“Grid alert levels after unplanned outages of a few baseload plants show how vulnerable the power system can be to centralized generators. We experience rotating blackouts while still paying for high electricity costs. This emphasizes the more urgent need for an energy transition based on distributed energy sources. We need to pick up its pace, because we cannot keep returning to the same situation every year,” said ICSC chief data scientist and report co-author Jephraim Manansala.

Despite experiencing low demand requirements in the beginning of the year, the NGCP placed the Luzon grid on yellow alert in January due to the forced outages of four power plants with a total generating capacity of 1,331 MW.

Given NGCP’s power outlook this May, there is a margin of 1,200 MW of operating reserves before the Luzon grid goes into red alert status. However, the report identified potential complications in selected coal power plants that may result in the depletion of these margin reserves:

  1. AboitizPower Corporation’s GN Power Dinginin Units 1 and 2 in Bataan (1,336 MW total generating capacity), which may not be fully operational by May 2022. Unit 1 has been one of the causes of the yellow alert status raised last earlier this year due to its outage last January 11, while Unit 2 has not yet started commissioning; and
  2. Semirara Mining and Power Corporation’s Calaca Unit 2 in Batangas and AboitizPower’s GN Power Unit 1 in Bataan (616 MW total generating capacity), which have undergone another unplanned shutdown recently and might not be able to provide its full dependable capacity. Both power plants have historically performed poorly, having unplanned outages that lasted for 10 months straight last year: Calaca Unit 2 was down from December 2020 to September 2021, while GN Power Unit 1 was down from January to November 2021.

“If there is no definite schedule as to when these coal plants can provide reliable power supply again, the DOE should take them out of what they consider dependable capacity. Keeping these plants in the scheduled total dependable capacity will only mask the power supply deficiency problem, like what is happening today,” Manansala said.

The report recommends that the DOE ensure the availability of power plants to their full dependable capacities, as well as the completion of all committed projects that have target commercial operation before May this year in order to guarantee sufficient power supply in the second quarter of 2022. 

“Apart from addressing power issues in times of peak demand, we also need to address this on a long-term basis. We are making our analysis available now so that citizens can contribute by conserving electricity, because all efforts will be needed even in the most optimistic power scenario,” ICSC energy transition advisor Alberto Dalusung III said.

The bulk of power consumption in the Philippines shifted to the residential sector in 2020, when most Filipinos were forced to stay home in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to ICSC, households can therefore make a significant contribution to efficiency by minimizing electricity consumption from the peak hours of 10 AM to 2 PM. On the other hand, businesses and other private institutions can also augment power supply through solar rooftop installations, especially during summer.

“The energy transition does not mean simply going to renewables, it also means wiser, better use of energy. We as citizens have to do our share,” Dalusung added.

The Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities is a Manila-based climate and energy policy group advancing climate resilience and low carbon development.

AC Dimatatac, media@icsc.ngo, +63 998 546 9788, +63 917 149 5649