Longer brownouts for Gensan seen this year

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/08 January)– Residents here should expect longer and more frequent brownouts as power supply from the National Power Corporation (NPC) to the South Cotabato II Electric Cooperative (Socoteco II) could be reduced further to mere 52 megawatts on the average this year.

Socoteco II technical services manager Crisanto Sotelo said they already received notice from NPC reducing power supply for the cooperative, down by 20 MW from last year’s aggregate supply of 72 MW.

Sotelo said NPC cited “de-rating” of existing power plants still owned by the power firm, although it did not mention which power plants have been de-rated.

He said brownouts in the city could last up to four hours depending on the available capacity from NPC.

“A 150-MW supply deficiency for the Mindanao grid is translated into a one hour brownout for Socoteco II,” Sotelo explained.

In December, supply deficit went as high as 520 MW resulting into 3-4 hour daily rotating brownouts.

Only the Agus River hydropower plant complex and the Pulangi hydroelectric power plants remain in the ownership of NPC following the privatization of all its thermal and fossil-fired power plant assets as mandated by Republic Act 9163 (Electric Power Industry Reform Act).

NPC also purchases power supply from the Mt. Apo Geothermal Plant and the coal-fired STEAG power plant that made up its overall available capacity.  The rest of the power supplies in the Mindanao grid are supplied by independent power producers.

Due to limited and erratic supply, NPC ceased entering into long term sales contracts with distribution utilities. Its power supply agreements with distribution utilities are now limited to annual renewable contracts.

Socoteco II however said all electric cooperatives in Mindanao have not yet signed power sales agreements with NPC for this year as they want bigger supply from the government-owned generating firm.

Socoteco II has a peak demand of at least 105 MW.

As a result of supply deficit from NPC, Socoteco II has since entered into a power sales agreement with Therma Marine Inc., which operates two power barges it bought from NPC in 2009 for US$30 million.

Power supply from Therma Marine is likewise on annual basis as Socoteco II is awaiting the 2015 projected completion of the 100-MW coal-fired power plant of Sarangani Energy Corporation.

Sotelo said Socoteco II is now also negotiating with Alsons Group which won the bid to purchase and operate the mothballed Iligan Diesel Power Plant (IDPP).

“We are looking at additional 30 MW supply from IDPP,” he revealed.

Oscar Benedict Contreras II, communications manager of Alsons power business unit, however said it will take at least six months to fully rehabilitate the IDPP twin diesel plants which have a combined capacity of 97 MW.

Contreras said they would welcome Socoteco II’s interest to buy power that will be generated by IDPP.

“We would certainly welcome off-takers,” he said. (Edwin G. Espejo/MindaNews contributor)