Manila Bulletin : DOE warns of ‘thin power supply’ in May 2022 elections

11 August 2021

By Myrna M. Velasco | Manila Bulletin

The boom-and-bust cycle in the electric power industry will not likely spare the country’s May 9, 2022 elections from rotational blackouts following the Department of Energy’s (DOE) pronouncement that power supply within the polling period will be thin.

“For 2022, we see the thinning of supply on election day and thereafter,” Energy Undersecretary Felix William B. Fuentebella stated.

“That is why we are closely monitoring the situation; and we are coming up with more policies so that we can ensure that we have more supply.”

Even Energy Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi cannot give a commitment to Congress during a hearing last month, July.

This early, the power distribution utilities and electric cooperatives indicated that they are already drawing up contingency measures – especially during the election period, given the fact that brownouts are often blamed as trigger to election cheating.

Already, the National Electrification Administration (NEA) has been mandating electric cooperatives to pursue a three-pronged approach when it comes to ensuring sufficient electricity supply during the election period – and that shall be until to the conclusion of the canvassing of votes.

NEA Administrator Edgardo R. Masongsong pointed out “if there would be ‘lights out, we are actually addressing that with embedded generation to be installed with the electric cooperatives.”

By that, the NEA chief expounded that electric cooperatives can buy gensets to tie them over not just within the May 2022 election timeframe, but also for the whole duration of summer months next year.

“Especially for the ECs in Luzon, we can have embedded generation as a way to address the power crisis…so if there’s a projection for lights out, that will be the best option,”Masongsong stressed.

NEA Deputy Administrator Artis Nikki L. Tortola added that “the electric cooperatives, together with the NEA, are actually looking into several options and strategies in order for the coops to be spared from possible blackouts during summer months.”

The other short-term remedial measures that the ECs can employ, according to Masongsong, will be enabling the interruptible load program (ILP), or the process wherein they shall encourage customers with self-generating facilities to switch them on, so that grid supply can be eased and power interruptions can be minimized if not totally avoided.

“In the event that there’s really no capacity that will come in and ‘lights out’ are anticipated, the ECs can activate the ILP as an option…it will be a big help if the ILP will be appropriately tapped by the ECs,” the NEA chief specified.

Beyond that, he emphasized that an alternative could also be demand-side management; wherein power customers will have to be encouraged to practice energy efficiency and conservation in their energy usage.

The longer term fix, Masongsong noted, will be for the ECs to have sufficient supply contracting and for them to undertake their competitive selection process (CSP) before their power supply agreements (PSAs) will fall due.

“We have been calling all the ECs to review their power supply contracts with existing power suppliers and for them to undergo CSP as early as five years before the expiration of their contracts,” he said.