MALACAÑANG assured that massive power loss during the time of late President Corazon Aquino will not happen again amid frequent brownouts nationwide.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Gary Olivar said Friday that rotating brownouts happening in the country were driven by the El Niño dry spell that could be addressed easily through proper use of power supply.

The Department of Energy (DOE) and the El Nino task force are on top of the dry spell dilemma, which greatly affected large areas of Cagayan Valley Region that is considered as the hottest area in the Philippines.

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“This is certainly nowhere near to the severity of the problem that happened in the early 90's,” the Palace official added.

The presidency of Aquino was faced by problems of electric blackouts that somehow affected economic transactions and business operations in the country. It was only during the term of former President Fidel Ramos when this power crisis was solved.

“I believe we are nowhere near of that (power outages during Cory’s time) level of power interruption yet,” said Olivar.

Olivar explained that because of extreme heat and very seldom rains, several hydroelectric power sources are having problems with water supply.

But he said this should not worry the country especially the business sector because this could be solved through electric demand management.

“We will not be unduly alarmed by this because I said this is a form of demand management just to survive the available power supply.”

The Palace official further said it is important that the DOE and power distributors to come out with schedules of power interruptions so that the pubic and business companies could prepare. “The predictability of the brownout is very important to prepare for contingency.”

Earlier, Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes urged power distributors in the metro to avoid brownouts even until after elections. He has made similar appeals to the electric companies in Visayas and Mindanao.

“Clearly rotating brownouts are time honored way of managing exhaust demand from time to time so I think we can assume that the DOE is doing all it can to minimize if not totally avoid the inconvenience of this form of demand management,” Olivar said.

Asked should Bataan power plant is necessary to solve power problem, he said: “That would be a long and expensive project if we will revive it.”

Power distributors in Luzon have warned about two to three hour rotational brownouts next week.

Similar power problems were experienced in Visayas and Mindanao due to some hydroelectric power sources are being shut down for maintenance purposes and critical water level condition.

Olivar, meanwhile, said he is expecting that this problem will be brought up in the Cabinet meeting on Tuesday.

Drafted actions

In a stakeholders meeting, Secretary Reyes said they have already drafted action plans that would address the impending power shortage in the National Capital Region.

Reyes said they have contacted the San Miguel Energy Corp. (SMEC), the holder of the contracted capacity for the 540 megawatt Limay combined cycle power plant, and ordered to put the plant in operation starting Sunday to avert the looming power shortage beginning Monday.

He also directed the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp. (Psalm) to immediately allocate funds for the fuel procurement for the 650 MW Malaya power plant whose supply is diminishing.

“Limay and Malaya are experiencing some problems and so our solution here…one is to operate the Limay and Limay has to be in operation starting Monday and second is we have to build up the inventory fuel for Malaya so I called up Psalm to allocate funds for fuel supply procurement,” Reyes said.

Aside from having Limay and Malaya both on stream, the energy chief likewise called the operator of the Malampaya oil rim to shorten by five days its scheduled maintenance repair, which begun last February 10.

“Also we have touch base with Service Contract 38 (operator of the Malampaya oil rim) to have their maintenance period shorten by five days that is from February 10 up to March 11, but instead it would be until March 6.”

At the same time, Reyes asked the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority to have its 100 MW power facility to run and be connected to the Luzon grid by April 30.

Assuming if these action plans were not met, Reyes admitted “otherwise we’ll have three hours rotating brownouts in Metro Manila.”

“(But) if we can do 1 and 2, there will be no brownouts,” he added.

Carlito Claudio, vice president for operations at the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines, revealed Thursday that the Luzon grid would have a power generation deficiency of at least 500 MW, equivalent to about two or three hours of rotating brownouts a day if both Limay and Malaya plant will not be made operational.

He added that the situation will put the Luzon grid on red alert next week, from the current yellow alert status.

A yellow alert means that the Luzon grid is not meeting the required reserve level of 1,200 MW.

As of Friday, gross power reserves at the Luzon grid was only at 258 MW.

Apart from the problem on the two plants, Claudio noted the increasing demand for electricity as we enter the summer season.

On the other hand, Reyes said the small power reserves in the Luzon grid was mainly due to the maintenance repairs being made in power facilities particularly in the Malampaya gas to power project, which supplies 2,700 MW of natural gas to three power plants in Luzon.

When prodded if the country is now facing a “power crisis,” Reyes said: “I would rather say we are in a period where everybody particularly energy family would be on its toes, and would monitor the situation very closely.”

“This thing that we will do, will address the situation in Luzon Monday to Friday,” he concluded. (Jill Beltran/MSN/Sunnex)