What you need to know about power advisories

Janella Paris
What you need to know about power advisories
The Department of Energy says the short-term answers are not enough to address the recent power shortages.


MANILA, Philippines — It’s summer and with the high temperatures, there is higher demand for electricity. With the Luzon power grid placed under red and yellow alert multiple times in April, there is the increasing possibility of power interruptions around Metro Manila and surrounding provinces.  

In this article, Rappler answers some questions related to this looming crisis.

What do red and yellow alert mean? Red alert means the power supply in power grids is insufficient, which may inevitably lead to rotational brownouts or manual load dropping in places covered by their respective grids. Power supply may also be classified as yellow and white, the former signifying low supply as demand approaches critical levels (though power outages do not yet occur), and the latter, sufficient supply. 

It is the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) that issues advisories. As of Wednesday, April 17, the Luzon power grid status is normal, but it has been placed under red and yellow alert multiple times in the past week. 

This has led power distribution utilities across Luzon to enforce rotational brownouts. Among these distributors was the Manila Electric Company (Meralco), the country’s largest power distribution utility. It covers Metro Manila, Bulacan, Rizal, Cavite, and parts of Laguna, Quezon, Batangas, and Pampanga.

What causes the thinning supply of power? Based on NGCP advisories, power supply is affected by unplanned or forced outages of power plants. On Saturday, April 13, for example, when the Luzon grid was under yellow alert, five power plants underwent unplanned or forced outages due to boiler tube leaks, boiler slagging, and vibrations in the primary air fans, among other reasons. In other words, technical problems in the power plants led to the outages of these plants, in turn affecting the amount of power that could be transmitted across the Luzon grid— there was a deficit in the total megawatts that the entire Luzon grid could provide. 

What is a power or electric grid? There are three stages in the power supply chain: generation, transmission, and distribution. 

These three components also make up what is called the power or electric grid, which is a network that includes the generating plants, transmission lines, and distribution lines.There are three power grids in the Philippines— the Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao grids. (READ: INFOGRAPHIC: How does electricity reach our homes and buildings?)

GenerationThis is the process of creating electricity out of primary sources of energy like coal, renewable energy, natural gas, and oil-based sources. As of 2017, 50% of generation in the country comes from coal, 24% from renewable energy, 22% from natural gas, and the remaining 4% from oil-based sources. Involved in generation are generation companies like Aboitiz Power, First Gen Corporation, for example.
This happens as electricity is carried through the grids via transmission lines. Think of transmission lines as huge electrical towers that are often erected in vast fields. Transmission around the country is facilitated by the NGCP, a privately owned corporation.
DistributionThis is how electricity finally reaches consumers. During distribution, electricity runs through distribution lines, which are smaller towers often seen traversing highways and roads. Distribution is facilitated by private distribution utilities like Meralco or by electric cooperatives.

What is being done to ensure that this does not become a power crisis? The Department of Energy (DOE) released a statement on Thursday, April 11, after the various red and yellow alert issuances from NGCP.

“We have put into action several immediate remedial solutions to demonstrate the DOE’s firm commitment to protect electricity consumers from the adverse effects of red alerts,” the statement read.

The DOE also said that it would review “replacement power and outage allowance provisions” in bilateral Power Supply Agreements between generation companies and distribution utilities. 

“The DOE recognizes, however, that short-term answers are not enough. Thus, we are taking a holistic approach that focuses on the establishment of institutional solutions that would benefit consumers in the long run,” the statement also said. – Rappler.com 

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