Electricity rates are still low but power outages loom


Electricity rates are still low but power outages loomElectricity consumers are fortunate that their monthly bills are declining despite increased consumption from work-from-home arrangements. But a possible power outage starting from the peak of the dry season to August this year could change the luck of consumers if they do not conserve their usage in anticipation of a low electricity supply.

Transmission operator National Grid Corp. of the Philippines late last week called on the power industry to help address the impending supply shortage in Luzon this year.

“Thin operating margin is forecasted in the Luzon grid from April to August 2021 due to multiple power plants on extended outage, thereby providing limited power supply,” NGCP said in a statement.

Many of the nation’s power plants are on extended outages due to technical limitations caused about by the pandemic. Lockdowns and strict quarantine rules have resulted in the delay in the delivery of materials and spare parts needed by power stations undergoing repair or maintenance operations. The harsh quarantine rules imposed by authorities to curb the current spike in COVID-19 infections have restricted the mobility of repairmen, or in some cases prevented them from working on the site.

“We continue to urge the authorities to look into this impending power situation in Luzon during this summer season. As the transmission service provider, NGCP can only guarantee the dispatch of all and any available grid resources. It cannot intervene on matters concerning power generation,” says NGCP.

The Department of Energy has predicted a total peak demand of 11,841 megawatts in Luzon for May, up 7 percent from the 2020 peak load of 11,103 MW on March 9, 2020. For Visayas and Mindanao, peak demand in both regions was reported in January 2020, and not during the usual months of November or December, because of the effect of the pandemic.

Visayas is estimated to have a peak demand of 2,394 MW while that in Mindanao is expected to hit 2,098 MW, higher from 2,201 MW and 1,977 MW in 2020, respectively.

More plant outages, of course, could muddle the supply situation and the thin contingency reserve. Consumers, thus, must use electricity efficiently to help prevent power interruptions amid the current lean supply.

Meralco’s initiatives

Manila Electric Co., for its part, is monitoring  the power supply situation to make the necessary preparations.

“But just in case the Luzon grid will be placed on red alert due to power plant outages, Meralco has measures in place to ensure continued, reliable service to our customers,” says Meralco vice president and spokesman  Joe Zaldarriaga.

Meralco can count on the voluntary Interruptible Load Program to augment the power supply needed by households in Luzon.

“ILP serves as an option for DUs like Meralco and electric cooperatives to ask their big load customers to serve their own power needs by using their own generator sets in the event that all available mechanisms implemented to ensure supply are not enough to cover the demand for electricity,” he said.

Meralco’s pro-active stance and the strong leadership of president and chief executive  Atty. Ray C. Espinosa, meanwhile, are leading to low power rates in the past years, and easing the burden on consumers during this prolonged pandemic.  

Meralco’s rates dropped to P8.3195 per kWh in  March after a P0.36 per kilowatt-hour decrease, the lowest since August 2017.  

Meralco’s overall power rates fell by more than P1 per kilowatt hour in 2020. When prices of other products, goods and services are going up, Meralco’s electricity charges are declining.

The low rates significantly contributed to the easing of inflation rate in the National Capital Region.  

Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority showed the inflation rate in the capital region slowed to 3.7 percent in March from the 4.1 percent recorded in February.  

Meralco has found ways of alleviating the plight of customers from the burden of the pandemic. It succeeded in obtaining a provisional approval from the Energy Regulatory Commission to refund around P13.9 billion to customers over a period of 24 months, or until the amount is fully refunded. The ERC endorsement contributed to lower Meralco rates.

Meralco’s implementation of new Power Supply Agreements in 2020 also resulted in significantly lowering generation costs, providing savings of an estimated P8.4 billion to consumers.  

Meralco is also continuing the suspension of all disconnection activities in its franchise area until April 30, 2021, following the government’s decision to place a Metro Manila and the nearby provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal under a modified enhanced community quarantine until the end of the month.  

“Given the ongoing pandemic situation and the latest quarantine measures, and always conscious of the challenges our customers are facing amid these trying times, we will continue to put on hold all disconnection activities until April 30 2021,” says Ferdinand Geluz, Meralco first vice president and chief commercial officer.

A customer still has the option to pay and settle his or her own bill if he wishes to, to help avoid the piling up of bills and the possibility of a bill shock later.

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