Socoteco I looking for new power sources

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/24 October) – With the intermittent rotating brownouts in Mindanao expected to linger within the next three years, power distribution utility South Cotabato I Electric Cooperative (Socoteco I) is exploring the possibility of developing alternative power sources to augment the area’s requirements.
Engr. Santiago Tudio, Socoteco I general manager, said Wednesday they are presently studying the available local resources as well as viable power generation technologies that may be tapped to produce additional power supplies.
He said the electric cooperative’s board agreed in its recent meeting to look into potential power generation investments.

“We’re still evaluating our options on what type of project to adopt. If, for example, we can later establish solar (power) as a viable option then we will go with solar,” he said in a radio interview.

But Tudio said the cooperative is not opting for the acquisition of power generators as they would be too expensive to operate due to the high cost of fuel.

Citing projections on Mindanao’s power situation issued by the Department of Energy (DOE), National Power Corporation (NPC) and the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP), Tudio said the current
power shortage might extend until 2015.
He said the island’s power deficit will only ease off when the initial 100 megawatts (MW) of Sarangani Energy Corporation’s (SEC) coal-fired power plant eventually joins the grid by late 2014 or early 2015.

SEC, which is a subsidiary of the Alcantara-led Conal Holdings Corp., is currently building a 200 MW coal power plant in nearby Maasim town in Sarangani.

Conal Holdings is 60-percent owned by the publicly listed ACR and the rest by the Electricity Generating Public Co. Ltd. or EGCO, Thailand’s largest power producer.

As of Wednesday, Tudio said the daily rotating brownouts in Socoteco I’s service area have stretched to three hours due to the continuing maintenance shutdown of Steag State Power’s coal plant in Misamis Oriental and the reduced capacity of the NPC’s hydroelectric plants in Bukidnon.

Socoteco I serves Koronadal City, Lutayan town of Sultan Kudarat and eight municipalities of South Cotabato.
Tudio said the NPC and NGCP have so far reduced Socoteco I’s power allocation to 20 MW, which is 12 MW shorty of the area’s peak demand of 32 MW.

Aboitiz-owned Therma Marine Inc. (TMI) augments the area’s power supply by 4 MW based on its power sales agreement with Socoteco I, he said.

Based on the NGCP’s power situation outlook for Wednesday, the Mindanao grid’s system capacity only stands at 882 MW or 356 MW short of its peak power demand of 1,238 MW.

But Rodolfo Ocat, general manager South Cotabato II Electric Cooperative, said the island’s supply shortfall has reached 440 MW based on the NGCP’s advisory released to electric cooperatives.

“The major generation inadequacy in Mindanao grid was due to the preventive maintenance shutdown of Steag Unit 1, a coal-fired power plant with 100MW capacity, and the reported low water inflow at Pulangi hydropower complex,” Ocat said in an advisory.

Due to the increased power deficiency, he said they were forced to extend the daily rotating brownouts within Socoteco II’sservice area to three hours from the previous two and a half hours.

Socoteco II serves this city, the entire Sarangani province and the municipalities of Tupi and Polomolok in South Cotabato.

The NPC and NGCP earlier reduced Socoteco II’s power allotment to 53 MW due to the cutoff from the Mindanao grid of one of Steag’s two 105-MW generating units.

Such allocation was 57 MW short of the city’s daily peak power demand of 110 MW.

TMI augments the area’s requirement by 30 MW based on a supply contract earlier forged by Socoteco II. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)