QUEZON CITY, 8 June 2021 — Energy policy experts pointed to renewable energy — mixed with demand side management, system reliability, and flexible generation — as the best way to address the immediate and long term implications of the current power crisis, leading to more investments, jobs, energy security, and a just economic recovery amid the pandemic.

“Summer brownouts are not rare, the second quarter is the time when annual peak demand occurs, that is the time we need more capacity,” said Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities (ICSC) energy transition advisor Alberto Dalusung III in a virtual press briefing yesterday on the recent power outages experienced in Luzon.

Dalusung cited actual outages in coal power plants from May 31 to June 2 as the direct primary cause of rotating brownouts in Metro Manila and other areas in Luzon. Referring to coal as a power source with intermittent reliability and lower efficiency, he presented data from the Independent Electricity Market Operator of the Philippines (IEMOP) showing wide variations of hourly loads in the Luzon grid going as high as 11,000 megawatts (MW) and as low as 6,000 MW in one day.

“Because of our load profile, what we need is flexible generation and not baseload,” Dalusung added.

ICSC senior policy advisor and energy law expert Pedro Maniego Jr. recommended immediate, medium-term, and long-term solutions to address the current reserve capacity challenges. “To cope with the current supply shortages, consumers can do their share by reducing their consumption through demand side management and energy conservation. Over the long term, the Philippines must have a power strategy based on resiliency, flexibility, and connectivity to anticipate these issues,” he said.

Maniego stressed that grid resiliency is imperative for our country due to its high incidence of extreme weather events. Flexibility is needed to cope with market, supply and demand uncertainties, while grid modernization is vital to cope with two-way power flow and ensure connectivity across enterprises, he added.

“We should not be doubling down on large fossil fuel baseload plants. Hopefully the pipeline we see in the next few years is more updated and modernized,” said Sara Jane Ahmed, founder of the Financial Futures Center.

Daluaung, Maniego, and Ahmed noted the case of Vietnam as the country with the highest installed capacity of solar power in Southeast Asia, with 16,500 MW generating capacity, of which 9,000 MW were installed in 2020 alone. They said this can also be done in the Philippines to quickly augment supply in time for the expected peak demand during summer season next year.

“We have the ability to do this. In terms of absorptive capacity, the Philippines has a more advanced grid than Vietnam because of the external investments we were able to enable,” Ahmed said.

She added that the Philippine power sector already has retail competition and open access under the Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001 (EPIRA), but it could not be fully implemented without the appropriate financing and contracting mechanisms.

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

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