DAVAO CITY , Philippines – Despite a decrease in demand, power distributors in Mindanao are still resorting to power curtailment, resulting in six- to eight-hour rotating blackouts, particularly in Central Mindanao.
On election day, Mindanao is projected to have reserves of only four megawatts, making the system still vulnerable to power outages.
A number of stop-gap measures are being planned to prevent a blackout on election day.
The weekend, however, shows a small break from power generation deficiency in the region, from over 400 megawatts down to only 72 MW as of 5 p.m. yesterday.
“Since it is Friday and it is going to the weekend, the demand is down. It is even going to be lower for Mindanao tomorrow and Sunday,” said Dennis Gana, department manager of the public affairs section of the National Power Corp. (Napocor) in a phone interview yesterday.
Gana placed Mindanao’s peak demand at 1,094 MW yesterday as against its available capacity, including embedded capacity, at 1,021 MW or a power generation deficiency of 72 MW.
This developed as the Energy Regulatory Commission approved granting of subsidies to encourage big power consumers like malls and factories to de-load from the grid and generate their own power.
Davao Light and Power Co. (DPLC) vice president Art Milan said the firm is willing to subsidize oil and lubricants needed for big companies to generate their own power.
DLPC met Thursday with major power consumers in the city and sought their commitment to participate in the scheme.
SM Davao branch manager Debbie Go said that the mall chain is willing to cooperate, especially because its other branches, particularly SM Cebu, had already been actively participating in this strategy being implemented in the province.
“We are also bent on doing the same rather than suffer from not having power at all,” she said.
The mall management expects a clear de-loading schedule from the DLPC once the entire scheme starts operation.
Big power consumers had already been briefed on the exact power situation in Mindanao during the Mindanao Power Stakeholders Forum last Feb. 18.
National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP) regional corporate executive Ed Calabio said in a stakeholders meeting Thursday with presidential adviser for Mindanao affairs Jesus Dureza that Mindanao has now reached critical level.
“We must have at least 230 MW of reserve above the load so we could have voltage regulation. But right now, we no longer have any reserve,” he said.
This was the reason why NGCP was forced to curtail power transmitted to power utilities. The curtailment was aimed to ensure and protect the entire Mindanao grid.
Due to the dry spell brought about by the El Niño phenomenon, hydropower plants reduced production from last year’s 53 percent share in the whole power generation in Mindanao to a mere 34 percent this year.
“When there is no water, then we are 50 percent off our capability,” said Calabio.
This pushed the power sector to tap sources of power besides hydro, such as oil and coal.
According to NGCP, there was a slight improvement in the power situation in the Mindanao grid with reserves deficit narrowing to 310 MW as of yesterday from 357 MW the other day.
The available capacity of the Mindanao grid, NGCP said, stood at 900 MW against peak demand of 1,210 MW.
With the deficiency, the Mindanao grid will force the system to curtail the power load given to customers.
Napocor’s Agus plants have a total available capacity of 145 MW today out of the total rated capacity of 727 MW. The Pulangi plant, also owned by Napocor, is running at 100 MW out of the total rated capacity of 255 MW.
Both Luzon and Visayas have registered zero deficiency.
NGCP reported that the high reserves ensure that the Luzon grid will remain stable and under normal status.
Provided all running power plants stay connected and synchronized to the grid, there will not be any outages among Luzon grid customers.
The Visayas grid has improved and now has reserves of up to 31 MW. The available capacity in the grid has increased due to Salcon Power’s Cebu Thermal Power Plant Unit 1, which is loaded with 50 MW after the plant was on planned outage for maintenance activities for almost a week.
The Department of Energy (DOE) is currently reviewing the Philippine Energy Plan (PEP) to take into consideration the need to have sources of power in Mindanao other than hydro power, which is intermittent and weather dependent.
DOE senior technical specialist Norman Vincent Martirez said the Mindanao grid will need about 2,500 MW additional capacity from 2009-2030.
This projection excludes the committed capacity of 100 MW from the 8-MW Cabulig hydro power project by Cagayan de Oro Electric Power and Light Co. to be completed in 2011; 42.5 MW Sibulan hydro power plant by Aboitiz’ Hedcor Inc. wherein unit 1 is scheduled to be completed this month (26 MW) and another unit in April (16.5 MW); and the 50-MW Mt. Apo 3 geothermal Energy Development Corp. targeted for commissioning in 2014.
Committed projects are those that have complied with the necessary permits and are in the process of financial closing.
Total indicative projects in Mindanao are around 581 MW, which include the 5 MW wind project of Energy Development Corp. (EDC) in Camiguin Island; Minergy’s 20-MW bunker fired power plant; Green Power Davao and Green Power Cagayan de Oro’s 35-MW biomass plant (17.5 MW each); 68-MW Tagoloan hydropower plant, 225-MW Agus 3 hyro project; Conal Holdings’ 200 MW coal plant; and Hedcor’s 27.5 MW Tamugan hydro plant.
The DOE said they have gotten commitments from stakeholders in Mindanao to help facilitate the entry of prospective investors to put up new power plants in Mindanao.
“We need the entry of these much-needed investments before it is too late,” the DOE said.
The contingency measures being implemented right now by the DOE are just short-term solutions.
“We also have to think of long-term solutions to allow us to solve these problems of power shortage,” Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes said.
Power failure in CDO airport
Meanwhile, hundreds of passengers were inconvenienced at the Cagayan de Oro airport by the blazing heat and a non-airconditioned terminal when the airport’s power generator conked out during a four-hour blackout.
Wilfredo Encinas, Cagayan de Oro airport facility officer-in-charge, said one of their two power generators suddenly conked out at around 4 p.m. when its voltage regulator malfunctioned last Thursday.
Encinas said the power generator, used to provide electricity for the terminal building, was utilized as a result of the four-hour power outage that started at 1 p.m.
Fortunately, another generator that supplies electricity for their air control tower and navigational aids and equipment, continued to run during the blackout.
Encinas said they were only able to get normal power when the Cagayan Electric Power and Light Co. resumed its regular power supply at 5:48 p.m.
He said the incident raised the need for them to conduct maintenance and repair works on their two power generators, if not procure a third backup generator that they can use in the event one of the power generators again conks out. Rainier Allan Ronda, Donnabelle Gatdula