Brownouts to become Gensan way of life unless…

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/10 March 2012) — Unless it will be able to secure long term power supply contract, residents of General Santos City and areas covered by its franchise will have to live with at least two hours of daily rotational brownouts which could go as high as eight hours a day, the South Cotabato II Electric Cooperative (Socoteco II) said.

Socoteco II general manager Rodrigo Ocat said erratic supply from the National Power Corporation (NPC) is now being felt by its consumers following the power company’s decision to limit supply contracts with utility firms on an annual basis due to inadequate capacities from its remaining generating plants, most of them hydro-electric plants.

Ocat said they have already resorted to buying power from diesel-fired power barges of Therma Marine Inc. to compensate for the reduced supply from NPC.

Socoteco II has a base load capacity of at least 70 megawatts (MW) and a peaking requirement of up to 105 MW from over 120,000 consumer-households. Its power supply requirement is expected to further increase beginning next month when SM Properties opens its shopping mall here. The SM shopping center will reportedly use up at least 10 megawatts when it opens in April which will coincide with the shutting down of the 100-MW Pulangi hydroelectric plant for annual preventive maintenance.

The 110-MW Mt Apo Geothermal Plant will also undergo preventive maintenance in June.  Other power plants that have reportedly scheduled their own maintenance are one of the Agus Hydro power plants in September and one of the two 105MW power plants of STEAG in Misamis Oriental.

NPC is said to have already advised Socoteco that it will be shedding off at least 15 megawatts of the utility firm’s requirement for the month.  For March, Socoteco II will reportedly only get an average supply of 61 MW from NPC.

This will mean at least six hours of daily rotational brownouts, according to Socoteco. It has also contracted at least 23 MW of supply from Therma Marine which is priced between P11 to P13 per kilowatt hour, depending on the cost of fuel, jacking the average cost of electricity of its consumes by at least P1.00 per kilowatt hour.

Still, the combined power supply of NPC and Therma Marine for March (84MW) is not enough to meet the peaking demand of Socoteco II forcing the utility firm to resort to two-hour rotational brownouts.

To cushion the impact, Socoteco II revamped its feeder assignments last month which enabled it to shorten the power interruptions.

Power sales agreement

As this developed, Ocat urged the public to support the approval of its power supply agreement with Sarangani Energy Corporation (SEC) which is now being heard by the Energy Regulatory Commission.

The city government however filed an opposition and is asking the board of directors to rescind the contract citing, reportedly, “onerous provisions” in teh agreement.

But Ocat said, under the circumstances and considering the power supply outlook of Mindanao, the power supply agreement between Socoteco II is the best it could procure even though it will mean slightly higher electricity bill for its consumers during the first two or three years of the supply contract.

The PSA between Socoteco II and SEC provides for a supply and purchase agreement of 70 MW of base load capacity at a cost significantly lower than the current supply contract between the cooperative and Therma Marine.

In the public hearings and consultations held in December and early this year, both Socoteco II and SEC said the benchmark of its supply is pegged at passed on price to consumers of P5.91 per kilowatt hour.

Socoteco II’s average cost per kilowatt hour at the moment, without the brownouts, is P5.47, inclusive of generation, transmission, and distribution charges.

SEC is constructing a two-phased 200-megawatt power plant in nearby Maasim, Sarangani.

The Alcantara-controlled power firm said it will commence construction as soon as the ERC approves its PSA with Socoteco II.

SEC will initially build a 100 MW plant and common structures for its second 100 MW power plant, which will start 12 months after it lays it foundations.

If plans push through, SEC will be able to deliver electricity to  Socoteco II at the start of 2015, at the latest.

Businessman Manny Yaphockun, former president of the General Santos City Chamber of Commerce, said residents will have to make a choice between a slightly higher electricity costs than suffer prolonged brownouts.  (Edwin Espejo/MindaNews contributor writes for the