MinDA seeks probe on power outages

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/11 March) — The Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) has sought a congressional inquiry on the rotating daily power outages in the island, which “should not be that worse because there is an untapped 65 megawatts from state-owned hydropower plants,” an official said last week.

Sec. Luwalhati Antonino, MinDA chair, said the House of Representatives’ committees on Energy and Mindanao Affairs, will investigate on Tuesday the power situation in the south and the curtailment scheme implemented by the National Grid Corp of the Philippines.

“We understand that NGCP’s action prompted distributors (mostly rural electric cooperatives) to implement two to four hours daily brownout,” she said in a statement, adding that in Region 12, brownouts would sometimes last for 10 hours.

But Antonino said Napocor’s Agus 2 and Pulangi hydropower plants have a combined 65MW or more untapped capacity that could sustain demand within a few yours during peak loads.

She said Agus has an installed capacity of 180 MW but only 90 MW is being transmitted to the Mindanao Grid. On the other hand, Pulangi has an installed capacity of 255 MW but only 180-200 MW is being dispatched.

Antonino said Pulangi’s installed capacity can still be increased if dredging is done to optimize its operation.

Likewise, Agus 2’s output could be further stretched to a level that will not violate environmental policy on the operation of the plant or a level that will not cause flooding at Balo-I area, she added.

Although it is not yet clear if the 65 MW is the reserved power for Mindanao, Antonino said this can be utilized during peak hours when demand surges.

“Bakit hindi ito ginagamit samantalang ang dami sa ating mga taga-Mindanao ang napeperwisyo dahil sa araw-araw na brownout (Why isn’t it being used when a lot of Mindanawons are suffering from the daily brownout?),” she said.

NGCP, the private operator of the country’s power transmission network, earlier said the curtailment was due to generation deficiencies of power producers in Mindanao.

Cynthia Alabanza, NGCP spokesperson, said that in the event that the power supply from the plants is not enough to address the demands of all power customers connected to the grid, NGCP implements load curtailment to maintain the power grid’s security and reliability.

The level of curtailment is based on the matrix of load to be maintained issued by the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management (PSALM) Corporation/ National Power Corporation, she said.

In January, the Association of Mindanao Rural Electric Cooperatives (Amreco) reported that the government’s PSALM is purportedly withholding the appropriation for the maintenance of Agus and Pulangi because the plants are due for sale as provided for by the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) law.

AMRECO said this contributed to the poor performance of the hydro plants.

Last year, the National Power Corporation (NAPOCOR) reported that at least Php3-billion is needed to rehabilitate the hydropower facilities in Mindanao which can contribute to an additional combined power ranging from 100 to 200 MW if realized.

Power generation in Mindanao has been steadily increasing at an average annual growth rate of 4.7% from 2002-2009. In the second quarter of 2010, the average and peaking capabilities of the hydro power plants dropped to 771 MW and 860 MW, respectively, resulting to brownouts reaching 4-6 hours daily in several areas during that period.

Today, Mindanao is again confronted with “red alert”status since the start of the year, with around 80-100 MW deficiency as reported by NGCP, MinDA said. (Bong Sarmiento/MindaNews)