POWER transmission utility National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) has underscored the need for policies supporting the demand side management to ensure adequate power during the upcoming elections in May, as it warned of thin power supply this summer due to higher demand in the "new normal."

NGCP, in a statement Wednesday, January 19, said the Department of Energy (DOE) forecast a total peak demand of 12,387 megawatts (MW) for Luzon to occur in the last week of May, a 747 MW increase from the actual 2021 peak load of 11,640 MW, which occurred on May 28, 2021.

For the Visayas, the peak demand occurred in December 2021, mainly due to the activity brought about by the holiday season, while the peak demand in Mindanao occurred in August, it added.

The utility reported that the actual peak demand in the Visayas was 2,252 MW on December 13, 2021. It was lower than the expected peak of 2,528 MW this year.

In Mindanao, on the other hand, the peak demand for 2022 is 2,223 MW, higher than the actual peak of 2,144 MW on August 4, 2021.

Thin operating margins, or the power in excess of demand used to manage and balance the grid, is forecast in the Luzon grid from April to June due to increase in demand during summer that includes the critical election period.

"NGCP coordinates the preparation and submission to the DOE of an annual Grid Operating and Maintenance Program (GOMP), which is the consolidated preventive maintenance schedules of power plants, considering the needed supply to meet the projected demand," the transmission utility said.

The 2022 GOMP was approved by the DOE on 10 January 2022, it said, adding that in compliance with the directive of the DOE, no maintenance shutdowns were scheduled during the summer months.

"NGCP, in compliance with its mandate, coordinated with the generation and distribution sectors so that we could optimize and rationalize our own maintenance schedules, to ensure sufficiency, at least on paper, of power supply throughout the year," the company said.

The utility further reported that as early as January, however, some generating units extended their maintenance shutdowns while others decreased their committed generation output.

As a result, yellow alerts were issued on January 10 and 11.

A yellow alert is issued when the excess power is insufficient to meet the transmission grid's regulating and contingency requirement, pegged at the time at about 495 MW and 647 MW, respectively, NGCP explained.

"On paper, there appears to be sufficient supply to meet demand but the plan on paper, the GOMP, is not always followed. It is when there are unscheduled shutdowns and derations, and extensions of maintenance duration, that grid operations may be disrupted enough to warrant the issuance of a grid alert status," it also explained.

"As the transmission service provider, NGCP can only give an overview of the current supply and demand situation, and endeavor to dispatch any and all available grid resources. It cannot intervene on matters concerning power generation," it added.

A red alert status is issued when supplies are insufficient to meet consumer demand and the transmission grid's regulating requirement.

NGCP said red alerts were issued over the Luzon Grid on May 31 and June 1 and 2, 2021 when a similar round of extended and unplanned maintenance shutdowns and derations occurred, depleting excess supplies and leading to rotational power interruptions implemented across the entire Luzon.

To alleviate possible power shortages, it appeals to policy makers to immediately explore demand side management strategies to mitigate any possible power supply issues in the coming summer months, especially at or around the time of the national and local elections.