Power outages hit Luzon and affect 1 million customers – BenarNews

Power outages have hit the Philippines’ largest and most populous island after 10 power plants shut down or curtailed output due to coal shortages, as experts warn of a possible crisis in a country whose electricity costs are among the highest in Southeast Asia.

The National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP) placed Luzon’s grid on “red alert” on Monday after power plant outages, which began over the weekend, led to power shortages. A red alert is a warning that power cuts are possible.

On Wednesday, the utility announced several power outages. Seven factories broke down and three others cut production, the NGCP said, leading to outages that affected around 1 million people in Luzon.

“We are ready … [to implement] rotating power outages … as part of our responsibility to manage the system,” the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) said in a statement Monday.

According to the government, coal-fired power plants account for more than 50% of Luzon’s electricity generation, while about 30% is fired by natural gas from the Malampaya deepwater gas field.

In September 2021, the US International Trade Administration Noted that the Philippines faced a growing energy crisis as the Malampaya field was expected to be exhausted by 2024.

Elsewhere, the country’s other two networks, in the Visayas and Mindanao regions, experienced similar outages, authorities said. The Luzon and Visayas networks are connected, while the Mindanao network is autonomous.

Between 2016 and 2021, the NGCP issued 22 Red Alerts and 154 Yellow Alerts across the three grids. Red alerts warn of potential blackouts while yellow alerts warn of potential brownouts due to excessive demand.

The latest power outages came just weeks after Energy Secretary Raphael Lotilla told a Senate hearing in August that the country had enough electricity supply through February 2023.

“Regular Occurrence”

In July, the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry expressed concern that power outages had “become frequent, especially during the summer months when the output of our hydroelectric plants drops significantly”. , even as Filipino consumers pay higher tariffs than their counterparts in other countries. Southeast Asian countries.

“Studies have shown that residential, commercial and industrial electricity tariffs in the Philippines have been significantly higher, ranging from 25% to 87%, compared to its ASEAN neighbors Malaysia ( 87.5%), Indonesia (87.5%), Vietnam (50%) and Thailand (36%),” the chamber said in a Facebook post.

Meanwhile, a senator has warned of a potential crisis in the country where growth in power generation has not kept pace with demand.

Last year, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, former chairman of the energy committee, said the country “could face a major energy crisis in less than six years” unless it finds alternative sources of energy. natural gas.

“In the medium to long term, a new power supply should arrive in due course,” Gatchalian told BenarNews in a text message on Wednesday. “Otherwise, we will experience power cuts as the country opens up its economy and the demand for electricity increases.”

In 2018, Manila and Beijing began talks on possible joint exploration of offshore oil and gas resources in disputed areas of the South China Sea.

The Philippines dropped those talks on constitutional and sovereignty issues when former President Rodrigo Duterte’s term ended in June.

An international arbitration tribunal ruled in 2016 that the Philippines has sovereign rights over energy reserves inside its 200-mile exclusive economic zone. China, which claims about 90% of the South China Sea as its territory, has refused to recognize the move.

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