Yellow alerts raise concern on power supply in Visayas

BUSINESS leaders in Cebu have expressed concerns over potential power shortages in the Visayas grid following the “yellow alerts” issued in the past few days due to high demand for electricity vis-a-vis low reserves amid the hot dry season.

According to Kelie Ko, president of the Mandaue Chamber of Commerce and Industry, electricity still remains among the highest costs in operating a business.

Power outages result in the loss of productivity, which eventually leads to loss of revenue.

“Our growing economy will need more power in the future. If this is not ready when it is needed, our growth potential will be stifled,” Ko told SunStar Cebu Wednesday, May 10, 2023.

A yellow alert was raised two days ago in the Visayas grid due to low power reserves, Lourdes Arciaga, chief, science research specialist of the Department of Energy Visayas Field Office (DOE-VFO) Energy Resource Development and Utilization Division, said in a press conference Wednesday.

Arciaga said there is a reduction of the energy supply due to high demand. High usage of appliances such as air-conditioners, electric fans, refrigerators and other cooling devices has been noted to combat the high heat index.

“When the temperature is high, cooling appliances tend to use more electricity to maintain the desired cool temperature. It’s not only household air conditioners but also the air conditioners in offices and malls, among others. Historically, during the hot months, power demand also rises,” said Quennie Bronce, head of the Reputation Enhancement Department at Visayan Electric, in a separate interview.

With the current weather and power situation, the DOE-VFO urges the public to conserve energy.

Renewable energy

To reduce costs, “companies have started to show more interest in renewable energy, specifically solar (power),” Ko said. He said solar power serves as an alternative source of electricity during daytime.

However, Ko stressed that investing in solar technology requires huge capital for the installation.

Because of this, he said the government should identify, invest in and develop more alternative sources of electricity such as wind, geothermal and water energy. This would ensure adequate supply and might bring electricity prices down.

Meanwhile, Charles Kenneth Co, president of the Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI), suggested the voluntary use of private generators by big power consumers subsidized with incentives.

Co told SunStar Cebu that this will augment the supply and help offset the effects of a possible shortfall from the grid.

“This was done in the previous power crisis, and scheduled power interruptions are more manageable than unexpected intermittent brownouts,” Co said.

Help from consumers

Consumers, meanwhile, are encouraged to observe best practices when using electricity such as making sure appliances are well maintained and that lights and appliances that are not in use are properly turned off to avoid phantom loads.

DOE-VFO senior science research specialist Miguel Trenuel said there is a national labeling system on energy consuming products to ensure that products are energy efficient and should be checked by consumers.

Trenuel said the DOE wants all energy consuming products to have an energy labeling system to protect consumers and ensure that what they buy are energy-efficient products.

All products that enter the Philippines pass through the Philippine Energy Labeling Program (Pelp), which ensures that the country will not be a dumping ground for inefficient products. The Pelp covers four energy-consuming products: air-conditioners, refrigerators, television sets and lighting products. The DOE plans to expand the coverage to include other products such as vehicles.

Yellow alert

As of 9 p.m. on May 9, the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP) had lifted the yellow alert that was first issued on May 8.

When the operating margin is way below the sufficient power requirement between the system peak demand and Available Generating Capacity, NGCP issues a yellow alert. However, it does not necessarily mean power outages.

But if NGCP issues a red alert when power supply is insufficient to meet consumer demand and the transmission grid’s regulating requirement, this can lead to rotating power interruptions.

As of 6 p.m. Wednesday, the Visayas grid had an available generating capacity of 2,466 megawatts (MW) and a system peak demand of 2,253 MW, for an operating margin of 213 MW, according to the NGCP.

Coal power plants remain the main source of power in the country.

According to the 2023 Gross Energy Generation per Plant Type report, coal produced 694,158 MW of power per hour for the Visayas grid as of March 2023.

The Visayas grid recorded 2,347 MW of system demand peak in March this year, the highest peak since 2008. (with KOC)