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Mindanao power supply critical; gov’t acts to avert crisis

By Amy R. Remo
Philippine Daily Inquirer

EXPECTING A tight power supply in the fourth quarter, the Department of Energy has started mobilizing short-term solutions for Mindanao, including the possible rehabilitation of power plants
currently placed under “preservation” mode.

“We had an emergency meeting to discuss the current power situation as well as make preparations for the power requirements in the last quarter of the year in Mindanao. Details of proposed solutions are currently being studied due to legal and technical aspects,” said Energy Secretary Jose Rene D. Almendras.

Almendras said that studies were being undertaken for the various options that could be implemented, which also included demand-side management and the use of available power-generation facilities “in a manner that will not drive the electricity cost too high.”

He said all concerned energy agencies would continue to meet weekly until a viable short-term solution has been put in place. These agencies included National Power Corp., National Electrification Administration, National Transmission Corp. and National Grid Corp. of the Philippines.

“The stakeholders and relevant parties will continuously be consulted,” he added.

The energy chief, however, did not say how much the shortfall in capacity in Mindanao would be by the end of the year. He disclosed earlier that the government expected a power supply shortage of only 50 megawatts on the island by 2011, if all the hydropower plants continued to operate at full capacities.

Should the country experience another El Niño as what happened earlier this year, the deficit would become bigger.

“Mindanao, in the past, has been reliant on hydroelectric power
for its affordability. However, in light of a protracted dry season this year, questions on its reliability have been made apparent,” Almendras said.

Mindanao sources more than half of its electricity requirements from hydropower sources, with the Agus-Pulangi hydropower complex providing about 900 MW.

Due to its heavy reliance on this particular source, Mindanao has been the most adversely affected by the prolonged drought this year as the reduced water levels at the dams drastically cut power-generating capacities to less than 10 percent.

“The DOE is keen on placing short-term solutions which will [lead] to a solution with more permanency. While placing secure and quality sources of energy is a major concern for Mindanao, the DOE is also putting emphasis on more power-generation investments from diverse sources on the island,” he added.

Almendras earlier said that he wanted the Mindanao grid to have at least 500 MW in base load generation from non-hydro sources like coal to insulate the island from severe power outages and unstable supply in the near future.

As of Wednesday, the Mindanao grid posted a power supply deficit of 117 MW.