Longer brownouts beset Buseco consumers

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/23 March) – Consumers of the Bukidnon Second Electric Cooperative (Buseco) are now experiencing 6.5-hour daily rotational brownouts instead of the usual 3-hour schedule.

Buseco general manager Edgardo Masongsong confirmed the longer schedule in a press conference Wednesday where he explained the Mindanao-wide power interruptions.

But Leonard Leyros, public relations officer of Buseco told MindaNews via telephone Thursday the schedule was temporary. He said the interruption would occur either from 9am to 3:30pm or from 3:30pm to 10pm.

Masongsong said they were forced to implement rotational power curtailment because the Mindanao power grid has a shortage of about 320 megawatts (MW), a deficiency that the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) has attributed to lower water levels in Lake Lanao.

But Rene Cortizano, general manager of the First Bukidnon Electric Cooperative, which covers the southern part of the province and Wao town in Lanao del Sur said they are not implementing power curtailment.

Based on Masongsong’s presentation, Buseco has incurred a deficiency of 11.65 MW in January, 5.96 MW in February, and 6.20 MW in March.

Buseco covers Malaybalay City, Cabanglasan, Lantapan, Impasugong, Libona, Baungon, Malitbog, Manolo Fortich, and Sumilao

Masongsong said that of their 24.42-MW peak demand level in January, they only obtained 12.77 MW of contracted energy from the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corporation or PSALM, the corporation that assumed the power generation activity of National Power Corporation.

In February, they contracted only 14.266 MW out of the peak demand of 20.23 megawatts. In March, they obtained 14.21 MW or 6.20-MW short of the peak demand.

The peak demand next month is projected at 19.98 MW. But Buseco obtained only 9.901 MW.

Masongsong said they are trying to address the problem by signing a 5-MW power supply agreement with Aboitiz-owned Therma Marine Inc, which operates two power barges. He said they are negotiating with the Energy Regulatory Commission to expedite the approval of the agreement.

Buying power from TMI would mean charging higher power costs to consumers, which needs approval by the ERC.

Masongsong said they were able to buy from TMI at P13.90 per kilowatt-hour, which is almost double its current rate of P7.3533 per KWH.

He said they are asking the Sanngguniang Panlalawigan to pass a resolution urging the ERC to approve it soonest.

But even if the ERC approves the purchase this month, Masongsong said this won’t stop the power curtailment. In April for example, the deficiency would be 10 MW, but TMI will only supply 5 MW.

The Power Alternative Agenda for Mindanao (Palag Mindanao) has urged President Benigno Aquino III to order the transfer of three power barges in Panay to Mindanao to address the power crisis.

Masongsong, who heads the Power Supply Aggregation Group Corporation (PSAGCOR), said there were reports the power barges were not functional. But he added that if the barges are transferred to
Mindanao, Buseco will buy more power to augment its capacity.

But Buseco board member Oliver Aldovino, one of three board members who figured in a legal dispute with Masongsong, said the power curtailment could have been avoided if the management took timely measures in anticipation of the shortage.

Fibeco’s Cortizano told MindaNews last week they have no power curtailment [yet] because they were able to secure a long-term power supply agreement with PSALM. He added they have availed of power supply from a milling company in Maramag town, and within months will avail of power supply from an embedded diesel-fired power plant.

Masongsong admitted that they were able to obtain only a short-term contract with PSALM after its earlier contract expired last year.

But he said Buseco has a larger commercial clientele than Fibeco, which he said is largely residential.

He added that the problem is not only for the electric cooperatives to solve. “This is for the Department of Energy to address as they are the agency responsible for this.” (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)