Power shortage grips Mindanao island anew

BusinessWeek Mindanao
Post Published: 27 February 2012

POWER shortage continued to stall businesses in several provinces in Mindanao as the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) started imposing load curtailment in 33 electric cooperatives as power supply has fallen due to alleged generation deficiency.

NGCP, the private sector operator of the state-owned transmission grid, is projecting an average shortage of 179 megawatts (MW) for the island next month to as high as 345 MW in April.

“The curtailment is Mindanao-wide. I don’t know how many cooperatives there are but everyone is affected. (Power) reserves are in the negative. We’ve been on Red Alert for several weeks now,” said NGCP spokesperson Cynthia Perez Alabanza.

Severely affected are the provinces of Maguindanao, North Cotabato, South Cotabato, and most parts of Sarangani, which are now suffering power outages lasting one to six hours.

Also affected by the load curtailment are General Santos, Cotabato, Iligan, Surigao, Kidapawan, and Zamboang
NGCP corporate communications officer for Mindanao Milfrance Capulong said only Davao and Cagayan de Oro cities have so far not been affected by the power outages because of the sufficient resources of local power firms.

Davao City has a standby power plant, which helps avert blackouts at this time.

“We impose load curtailment to protect the stability of the (Mindanao) grid. Let’s say that the grid is the national highway; everybody taps into the grid. Kung magkaroon ng problema yung grid, walang makakagamit ng kuryente maski may dumadaloy na kuryente,” Alabanza stressed.

In a power sector forum organized by the Cagayan de Oro Chamber of Commerce and Industry Foundation, Inc. last week, Eugene H. Bicar, assistant vice-president for Mindanao systems operations of NGCP, showed that from the 727 MW of installed capacity, the current peak capability of the Agus hydropower plants is only 467 MW.

The lower output can be traced to several issues, officials said.

Pedro C. Ambos, Jr., National Power Corp. (Napocor) officer-in-charge for operation and planning, explained in the same forum that the state power firm could not operate the hydropower plants at maximum capacity as the discharge of water that will allow such output will flood low-lying areas in Lanao del Sur province where the plants are located.

Agus 1, for example, is limited to 45 MW from its 80-MW installed capacity, even as the power needs of the distribution utilities in the last quarter have outstripped the allocation in their contracts with Napocor, he said.

Mr. Ambos also admitted that Napocor’s funds for maintenance and operations have been cut in preparation for the planned privatization of the power plants.

Construction of infrastructure to protect communities from possible flooding, he added, is being undertaken by the Department of Public Works and Highways.

NGCP’s Mr. Bicar, for his part, stated the company’s position that Mindanao’s power woes are due to generation deficiency and not due to failure to renew Ancillary Service Procurement Agreement with power barges.

“We could not construct a power plant,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Mindanao Coalition of Power Consumers has sent out a petition to discontinue the implementation of the Leyte-Mindanao Interconnection Project of the NGCP.

“We believe that there is no need to carry out the phase 1 work, despite its approval by the Energy Regulatory Commission, as it is no longer economically feasible to carry out the main project itself,” the petition reads.

The coalition noted that the project was deemed feasible in the mid-’90s when power was considered to be transmitted from the geothermal plants in Leyte. However, with the present power requirements in Luzon and the Visayas, the power generated in Leyte would not be enough to supply Mindanao as well.

In Davao City, customers of the Aboitiz-led Davao Light and Power Co. will pay an additional P0.2276 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) this month as Napocor started to impose its so-called dry season rate.

Mindanao’s power supply is heavily dependent on hydroelectric power.

Rossano C. Luga, company spokesperson, explained that the rate has been applied since two years ago based on the imposition of the state-run power company.

Davao Light, however, said the transmission charge based on the billing from the NGCP will be lower by P0.0665/kWh as a result of lower ancillary charges. Ancillary charges are imposed on power consumed from sources that only operate as needed.
By NELSON V. CONSTANTINO, Editor-in-Chief and CARMELITO Q. FRANCISCO, Correspondent with Wire Reports

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