DOE warns of 7-week rotating brownout in 2015
Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla says that if President Aquino does not get special powers at the 'soonest' time, there will be a red alert, or insufficient power supply, in the summer of 2015
MANILA, Philippines – A 7-week rotating brownout in the summer of 2015 is likely if Congress will not grant President Benigno Aquino III soonest the special powers to address the electricity supply deficiency in Luzon.

“Based on our latest projection, there will be red alert spread out during the summer months,” Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla said on Thursday, September 25.

A red alert means insufficient power supply.

The brownout could last from an hour to 3 hours. This scenario could happen during the last week of March, the first two weeks of April, and in all weeks of May.

 “The scenario could be different if there is yellow alert and no red alert,” Petilla said.

Yellow alert means that contingency reserves are below the minimum level set by the regulator but does not necessarily mean power outages or blackouts.

The projected supply deficiency in Luzon is anywhere from 450 to 500 megawatts (MW).

Hoping it’s not too late

By December, it would be already too late to wait for the joint resolution,  Petilla said, following the Senate hearing on the proposed grant of special powers to  Aquino to address the looming energy crisis. 

“Until there is no joint resolution, we can’t enter into any contracts. Funding is also a problem,” Petilla said. (READ: Petilla to Congress: Act fast, energy crisis looms)

On September 12, Aquino asked Congress to grant him powers to contract additional power generating capacity to address the expected shortage in 2015.

Senate President Franklin Drilon and Senator Sergio Osmeña III, chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy, had said that Malacañang should not expect the resolution to be ready by the end of September, as it had requested, as both houses of Congress need to carefully deliberate on the matter.

One of the options being considered to solve the problem is for government to purchase or lease generating power facilities from the power producers but it could take 5 to 6 months for the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities and Management Corporation (PSALM) to finalize the contracts.

Another option is for government to rely on the Interruptible Load Program (ILP) where industries and businesses will run their standby generator sets instead of getting power from the grid.

“We have to make a calculative move as soon as possible. It would seem that we will have to maximize the ILP and convince all power plants to go online as soon as possible whether these are new or just rehabilitated,” said Petilla.

Malls and business groups have, to date, committed over 410 MW of power supply under ILP.

On Thursday, the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) also pushed for the implementation of ILP as the cheapest and most workable measure to address an anticipated power shortage.

No electricity rate price spike

The energy chief assured that during a red alert, electricity rate prices will not spike at the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM) – should the Manila Electric Company (Meralco) tap it as an additional power source.

“The market is suspended during red alert so the selling price at the WESM is averaged at a rolling period for the past 30 days. The price of electricity is not going to go up but there will be no power,” Petilla explained.

During a yellow alert, the prices could go up only if the WESM secondary price cap is lifted by the ERC (Energy Regulatory Commission).

“Without the cap, it would all depend now on the behavior of market participants.… Electricity prices do go up every summer with or without a power crisis because of high demand,” Petilla pointed out. –

Candle image via Shutterstock

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