Power outages in Mindanao worse next month

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/06 March) – The continuing daily rotating brownouts here and other areas in Mindanao are seen to worsen by next month reportedly due to another round of maintenance works set by the National Power Corporation (NPC) on the Pulangi hydro power plants in Bukidnon.

Engr. Santiago Tudio, general manager of the South Cotabato I Electric Cooperative (Socoteco I), said Tuesday they received a notice from the NPC that it would shut down the combined 150-megawatt (MW) Pulangi plants by April to pave the way for their scheduled preventive maintenance and river desilting operations.

He said they were still waiting for the final notice about the matter from the NPC and power transmission firm National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) but said they were informed in advance to allow them to prepare and properly inform their power consumers.

“The 150-MW supply cut will be pro-rated to all electric cooperatives in Mindanao so it means we’ll have extended rotating brownouts by then,” Tudio said.

Socoteco I has been implementing hour-long rotating brownouts within its service area, which covers Koronadal City and the municipalities of Tampakan, Banga, Tantangan, Norala, Surallah, Banga, Sto. Nino, T’boli and Lake Sebu in South Cotabato; and, Lutayan town in Sultan Kudarat.

This city, the entire Sarangani province and the municipalities of Tupi and Polomolok in South Cotabato is served by Socoteco II, which implemented periodic rotating brownouts lasting about an hour since January.

Tudio said that they implemented the rotating brownouts due to the power supply cuts imposed by the NPC and NGCP as a result of Mindanao’s worsening power supply deficit.

Based on the power situation outlook released by NGCP Tuesday morning, the island’s power deficit is presently at 154 MW based on the total system capacity of 1,099 MW and the peak power demand of 1,253 MW.

But Tudio said they received a separate notice from the NGCP and NPC that Mindanao’s power deficit for Tuesday has reached 240 MW and is expected to increase to 300 MW during the peak hours.

Due to the power deficit, he said the NPC was only able to supply 25 MW to their service area out of their contracted supply of 31 MW.

He said the situation was even worse in the Socoteco II area, which earlier lost 30 percent of its power requirements or around 30 MW.

“But we’re not much affected yet in terms of the rotating brownouts when compared to the almost half-day outages in other areas because of the supply augmentation from Therma Marine,” Tudio said.

He was referring to the separate contracts forged last year by both Socoteco I and II with the Aboitiz-owned Therma Marine Inc. (TMI) for a standby supply of 4 MW and 18 MW, respectively.

“But overall, our situation is very volatile because of the unstable condition of NPC’s hydro power plants so our group (Mindanao electric cooperatives) is continually working with the DOE (Department of Energy) to find other alternative power sources for us here,” he said.

In a meeting in Manila last Feb. 24 to 25, Tudio said Energy Secretary Jose Rene Almendras informed them that the government will immediately send to Mindanao the two power barges presently stationed at the Navotas port in Manila to help offset the area’s power shortage.

The power barges reportedly have a capacity of 40 to 50 MW each, he added. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)