Power rate hike looms in GenSan, 2 provinces in R-12

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/17 December) – Power rates here and in nearby South Cotabato and Sarangani provinces will likely increase by next month as local power distribution utility South Cotabato Electric Cooperative II (SocotecoII) announced its linkup with power supplier Therma Marine Inc. (TMI) in a bid to address the looming power shortage in Mindanao.

Rodolfo Ocat, Socoteco II general manager, said they decided to purchase at least 18 megawatts (MW) of power from TMI starting January to cope with the anticipated supply shortfall in the area as a result of the reduction of the National Power Corporation’s (NPC) power generation capacity.

He said the NPC issued an advisory to Socoteco II late last month that it would reduce its power supplies in the area starting next month to 83 MW from the current 97 MW or a drop of  at least 14 MW.

Ocat said the power supply cuts, which covered all power distribution utilities within the critical Mindanao grid, was reportedly due to the declining power generation capacity of the NPC’s hydroelectric plants.

“We really have no other choice but to purchase additional power supplies from Therma Marine because we don’t want to face the New Year with another round of long rotational brownouts,” he told reporters.

TMI, which is a subsidiary of power producer Aboitiz Power Corporation, owns and operates the power barges located in Maco, Compostela Valley and Nasipit, Agusan del Norte that deliver at least 200 MW of power to the Mindanao grid.

Joy Celeste Alora, Socoteco II information officer, told MindaNews the distribution utility already signed a supply contract with TMI for at least one year.

But she said they could not yet give out the exact figures of the increase in the basic power rates as a result of the deal with TMI since it would still depend on how and when Socoteco II would utilize the additional power supplies.

“The 18 MW will serve as augmentation or standby power supply in case the NPC pushes through with the reduction of its generation capacity,” Alora explained.

Socoteco II currently serves more than 113,000 industrial and residential connections in this city, the entire Sarangani province and the municipalities of Tupi and Polomolok in South Cotabato.

As of November, Alora said Socoteco II’s basic power rate for residential consumers in the city and the neighboring areas was at P5.32 per kilowatt-hour (kwh) or down by 14 centavos from the previous month’s billing.

She said the area’s power rates have already gone down by more than P2 since the months of April and May that saw the basic rates breaching the P8 level per kwh.

The drastic increase in the power rates earlier this year was mainly due to the skyrocketing ancillary charges that were passed on by the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) to local distribution utilities in Mindanao.

The NGCP said the ancillary charges, which increased to P136.16 million in March and P386.9 million in April, refer to payments for “power supplier-driven services that are necessary to support the transmission of electricity from power resources to load customers and to maintain the reliability of power services.”

NGCP officials said the drastic increase in its ancillary charges was caused by the increased utilization of oil-fired power plants in the wake of the reduced generation capacity of the hydropower plants during the drought that hit the area during the first half of the year.

The limited operations of the NPC’s hydro power plants, which started in late January, was mainly blamed on the reduction of the water levels of Lake Lanao and the Agus and Pulangi river systems due to the onslaught of the long dry spell caused by the El Nino Phenomenon.

The power supply shortfall had forced the NGCP to impose significant cuts on the power loads of local electric cooperatives, triggering daily rotational brownouts that reached as long as 12 hours. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)