No brownouts this summer, says DOE

BusinessWeek Mindanao
March 14, 2011

IN light of imminent power shortages seen in Mindanao, the Department of Energy is looking into adopting measures that will address the problem especially in the coming summer months.

During a forum in Cagayan de Oro last week, Energy Secretary Jose Rene Almendras said the power situation in Mindanao for the coming summer months is a cause for concern but is not critical.

Despite fears of a repeat of last summer’s rotating brownouts, Almendras said there is only a two week “critical” period when the Mindanao grid’s power reserves would be relatively thinner due to scheduled maintenance works on its major hydroelectric power plants which supply 55 percent of the island’s power mix.

Almendras said the Pulangi IV hydroelectric power plant in Bukidnon was originally scheduled to undergo a month long rehab this month but this is expected to be considerably shortened given the latest estimates of the National Power Corporation (Napocor).

“Even if only Pulangi is on maintenance, there should be no brownouts,” Almendras said. “The bigger challenge would be in May when the Agus hydroelectric plants are scheduled for rehab during the third week of May because our reserves would be much lower.”

Earlier, the DOE said that in addition to the supply augmentation program consisting of the transfer of power barges to the southern region, sale of electricity by big industrial firms with excess capacities and through voluntary curtailment, the Grid Operation Management Protocol (GOMP) will be implemented rigorously to ensure power supply reliability during unexpected generation plant shutdowns.

The DOE encourages consumers from all sectors to reduce electricity demand especially during peak hours by turning off equipment and appliance when not in use to avoid any power cuts.

Almendras said for whole month of January 2011, the Mindanao grid experienced only a one day Yellow Alert when reserves were lower relative to demand.

“The reason why we don’t have brownouts in 2011 is weather has been great,” he added.

However, Almendras said although Mindanao’s required reserves are 32 percent, the actual figures so far have been way below that.

“If one plant goes down or there is a surge in demand, system can’t respond,” he said. “You can never be 100 percent sure with power in any setting. That’s why we need every single megawatt of non-hydro generating capacity. Assuming walang nasisira we’re okay.”

In preparation for the expected two weeks Yellow Alert when the Agus and Pulangi plants will be down for maintenance, Almendras said the ERC is extending the ancillary service contracts of the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines’ (NGCP) with Therma Marine Inc.’s M1 and M2 power barges to July 7, 2011.

“NGCP will have 100 MW available under the ASPA with another 82 MW firmed up in bilateral agreements with various power coops,” said Jovy Batiquin, TMI Chief Operating Officer said. “The balance of 18MW is available to NGCP anytime it needs it.”

As a further contingency, DOE also plans to move three of its power barges from Panay once the power situation in that island normalizes with the operation of new coal-fired power plants.

PB 101 has been tentatively scheduled for transfer to Mindanao by the fourth week of February, PB 102 by the third week of March and PB 103 by the first week of May.

Almendras assured forum participants the NGCP/TMI ASPA experienced

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